Montgomery business owner's dreams to open ice cream trailer turns into nightmare

Mycah Hatfield Image
Wednesday, July 14, 2021
Battle churning over ice cream trailer in Montgomery
The only way to help businesses with the pandemic rebound is for leaders to step up and invest in small businesses. But a business owner claims the mayor of his city is doing the opposite.

MONTGOMERY, Texas (KTRK) -- A man attempting to open an ice cream trailer in the historic district of Montgomery said city leadership has taken back their approval to open and operate his business.

Over the last year, Bill Clevenger has purchased land and a trailer. He had it wrapped, had inspections done and got permits for Texas Twist and Shakes, which he hoped to open in the next few weeks.

"I've jumped through every hoop," Clevenger said. "I've done everything they wanted me to do. I'm approved. I've done it all."

Clevenger wanted to open the ice cream trailer in the historic district because of its walkability. So far, he said people in the community have been reaching out to him excited about the ice cream shop opening. He's even had nonprofits contact him for partnerships.

Even before he opened his place, he allowed Wilderlove Coffee to open their trailer on his property, which started serving customers about two weeks ago.

This week, Clevenger said he got a letter in the mail from the city's attorneys referencing his ice cream business and letting him know that he was in violation of city codes.

"The purpose of this correspondence is to inform you the Trailer located in the Historic District is in current violation of the Code of Ordinances of the City ("City Code")," the letter reads. "As you know, on or about November 3, 2020, and November 10, 2020, the Planning and Zoning Commission and the City Council of the City, respectively, approved a variance request for platting requirements and exterior modifications to allow you to operate the Trailer in the Historic District. Unfortunately, through no fault of your own, the approval of the variance request does not permit you to operate the Trailer in the Historic District."

Clevenger and the owner of Wilderlove Coffee were under the impression that this was in preparation for amendments to the city's mobile food unit ordinances that the city council was set to vote on Tuesday night.

He feels it is to prevent him from being able to open, which was not a welcoming thought. Clevenger said he has put more than $200,000 into the business so far.

"It's our livelihood," Clevenger said. "It's huge. It's a huge investment. The letter basically states in the closing, 'Sorry for the inconvenience.' I can't just walk away from it. I am the deed holder of the property. We own the trailer. We have invested all this money. I have people depending on me for a summer job."

During an off-camera meeting with ABC13, Mayor Sarah Countryman and city manager Richard Tramm said the letter had to do with Wilderlove Coffee.

They said the type of permit they have requires the trailer to be moved off the property every night. If they want to leave it where it is, Tramm said the business will need to apply for a special use permit.

During the city council meeting, members will vote to mandate that all mobile food units have a special use permit.

Clevenger does not believe he will get one if he applies for it. He ran against Mayor Countryman in November as she sought a second term.

The owner of Texas Twist and Shakes fears he will have to take legal action against the city.

"It's going to cost the city money," Clevenger said. "It's actually the taxpayers' money that is going to go and fight something they want."

He intends to go to the city council meeting with a large group of supporters to voice their concerns about the changes to the city's ordinance.

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