Leon Worden

Car guys needn't fear Newhall revitalization

By Leon Worden
Community Columnist
The Signal

Wednesday, November 5, 1997

xciting things are happening along the road to revitalization in Old Town Newhall!
    If you've been downtown lately, you've probably seen that the earth is already being turned on Railroad Avenue. With an expected completion date in early 1998, the opening and widening of the street will dramatically improve circulation through Newhall and enable San Fernando Road to become more pedestrian-friendly.
    Last week $3 million in state grant money was approved for the construction of a new Metrolink station in downtown Newhall. It too will serve a dual purpose when it opens about a year from now: Not only will it save current Metrolink riders the hassle of driving north out of Valencia and Newhall to ride the trains south, but it will bring arriving passengers directly into downtown Newhall to go shopping.
    Ten contractors have bid on the Metrolink project, and the one that is selected will present its plans for public input. The city already has determined that the new train station will follow one of the Western-Victorian-Spanish design themes that the merchants, property owners and residents have said they want in the area.
    Hart Park will see some changes, too. The odd structure known as the "pole barn" near the parking lot will get a complete overhaul. Using historical photographs as a guide, the project architect has captured the Western flavor of Old Newhall. The design features a tower similar to the one that adorned the Southern Hotel in Newhall during the late 1800s, and the refurbished structure will have a seating capacity of 300 for meetings and weddings (100 for sit-down dinners).
    With everything that's going on downtown, some existing business owners are justifiably concerned about their future there. The bottom line is, redevelopment isn't going to force anyone out of business.
    Specifically, some auto service people in downtown Newhall have heard reports that aren't entirely accurate about what the transformation of Old Town Newhall will mean to them. A rumor circulated recently that the current auto repair shops and car rental agencies won't be allowed to exist anymore. It simply isn't true.
    But the confusion was understandable. The city's Newhall Redevelopment Committee is currently preparing special standards for an area bounded roughly by Newhall Avenue to the west, Eleventh Street to the north, Pine Street to the east and the Arklin property on San Fernando Road to the south. In addition to setting architectural guidelines for the area, the Redevelopment Committee is working on new regulations to codify what types of businesses will be allowed to move into the area and what types won't.
    If adopted, the new regulations would allow all the types of businesses generally associated with an Old Town — antique shops, restaurants, theaters, art galleries, banks, clothiers, jewelers and so forth. They would also prohibit the establishment of any NEW businesses that don't generally encourage pedestrian shopping — auto repair shops, storage facilities, cemeteries and the like.
    Let me repeat that. The new regulations would prohibit NEW automotive businesses from coming in. The regulations would not eliminate any existing businesses.
    Under the city's Unified Development Code, businesses that legally existed under an old set of rules can't be eliminated under a new set of rules, even if the new rules wouldn't allow that particular business to come in today. Such businesses are considered "pre-existing legal uses," and the law allows them to operate in perpetuity, provided that their use isn't discontinued for a period of 180 consecutive days.
    In other words, if a business was legal when it went in, it is legal forever. (Unless it's abandoned for six months.)
    Note, too, that the law applies to the "use," and not to the owner. Owners of auto service shops, car rental agencies and similar establishments can freely sell their businesses without fear of rejection from the city. As long it isn't abandoned for six months, an existing automotive business can be sold to someone else who wants to maintain it as an automotive business. That's the law.
    Call Glenn Adamick at City Hall, (805) 255-4330, with your redevelopment concerns.*
* * *
    Two words. Country Fair. It's coming on Saturday and Sunday, November 15 and 16, to Newhall Park. It'll be loads of fun for the whole family, and it benefits the refurbishment of the Hart High and Newhall School auditoriums. Mark your calendar.
* * *
    Leon Worden's commentary appears on Wednesdays.
    *UPDATE: Call (661) 259-2489 and ask for the Economic Development division.

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