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Since 2000, most business owners on West Hildebrand have reported considerable financial losses; some have simply packed up and left. Those who have stuck it out linger in a state of zoned limbo, and some suspect the situation may soon get worse. Forget about lost wages, revenue, and inconvenience: Now business owners have to worry about losing their parking. City officials told several West Hildebrand entrepreneurs that their head-in spaces will not be replaced due to a number of factors, including the steep grades of their lots, an inadequate distance from building to street, or the failure of former business owners, who never filed for the proper permits for their head-in parking areas.

On January 21, City officials and representatives from the Texas Department of Transportation met with West Hildebrand business owners and walked the destruction zone to try to amicably negotiate a solution to the parking debacle. Yet, business owners couldn't hide their frustrations, as their patience has long been spent, presumably along with their personal savings.

City officials, including City Engineer Doug Yerkes, tap-danced around their words, making subtle distinctions between "good candidates for head-in parking" and merely "candidates for head-in parking;" ultimately, they made no concrete promises.

But not all West Hildebrand businesses are treated equally, at least when it comes to parking. Disgruntled business owners on the 500 and 600 block can look across the street and see a series of freshly poured head-in and low curb lots, compliments of the City. Some lots are quite steep, others are quite stubby, and several didn't exist before construction started, and all these parking lots, according to one source at the City, violate codes that existed long before the spaces were created.

So why do owners on one side of the street have to fight for parking that their neighbors received with nary a peep? And would the City dilly-dally for three years if the road ran in front of Wal-Mart, Target, or Home Depot? No one has an answer. But the sense of inequity isn't lost on the have-nots. "This whole situation could have been avoided," says Robert Barrett, "if the city had made any attempt to communicate with the business owners along this corridor prior to this boiling point." Barrett has watched his son's business slow to a trickle over the last few years. Robert Barrett Jr.'s yearly sales are down by more than $75,000, compared to his annual sales prior to construction. He has yet to tally his total losses.

The Barrett family, along with several other business owners, recently hired an attorney, Rosa Maria Gonzalez, who is negotiating with the City for them. Gonzalez will host a meeting February 1 between business owners, City officials, and Texas Department of Transportation personnel. Perhaps then officials will disclose a plan that adequately addresses the business owners' concerns - and answer questions about who is allowed to survive - and who doesn't - along West Hildebrand. •

For information about the February 1 meeting, call Rosa Maria Gonzales at 226-8301.

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