City's mistake costs Raleigh used car business
Posted January 16, 2012
Raleigh, N.C. — Raleigh leaders admit they made mistakes twice when they allowed Campus Auto Repair along Hillsborough Street to start selling used cars on its lot. Now, the owners are demanding the city make things right.
When Saleh Nazleh and his brother, Naser, bought Campus Auto Repair in 2005, they were both looking for a better life.
"I have three kids myself. My brother has six," Nazleh said Monday.
As the auto repair business slowed down, the brothers decided to start selling used cars on the lot.
A Raleigh zoning official came in 2006 and approved them to have up to three vehicles on display for sale.
But the brothers weren't able to raise the $5,000 needed to afford a dealer's license and insurance.
So, in 2010 they went through the process again because their zoning approval had expired. They painted the building, got signs, cleaned up the parking lot like the city asked them to and purchased dealer's licenses and insurance.
"We wanted to do it the right way, so we could go to the auction and buy a car (and) report every car we sell and pay our taxes," Nazleh said.
Another inspector came out and approved them to sell two cars in two allotted spaces.
"Business got even slower after that – and yes, I decided to display more than just two cars," Nazleh said. "I’m not blocking the sidewalks...I’m not having problems with any neighbors."
Recently, Nazleh received a letter from the city manager's office stating that the city "made a mistake" issuing a license to him to sell used cars in the first place because of zoning issues.
The city council agreed that used cars along Hillsborough Street just don't work.
"We've been working on Hillsborough Street a long time to change the mindset of what it is, so I do agree that doesn't need to be there," Councilman John Odom said. "It was a mistake. We make mistakes."
But Odom said he feels the city should at least give the Nazlehs a chance to make back some of the money they spent on the licenses and the cars.
Nazleh said he’s asked the city to allow them to sell two cars at a time on the lot until their dealer's license expires in September.
"We don't want them to change the guidelines of the city. If that's what it is, that's what it is, but you guys made a mistake. Please let us sell cars until our license expires," Nazleh said.
City Attorney Thomas McCormick is looking into a compromise that would allow the men to sell cars until the license expires. He is expected to report that information to the city council on Tuesday.