Friday, October 24, 2014

Fayetteville council approves rezoning to allow Tidal Wave Car Wash despite some resistance


By Josh Akeman

Despite some resistance from nearby residents and business owners, the Fayetteville city council approved a rezoning with a special exception to allow a Tidal Wave Car Wash to be built at 750 North Glynn St.
The applicant, however, was denied a requested setback variance.
The property sits at the corner of Highways 85 and 314 and has seen a series of restaurants struggle and fail. It was most recently occupied by American Buffet and has been occupied over the years by Shoneys and Hooters.
Scott Blackstock of SHJ Construction Group owns five other Tidal Wave Car Washes. In order to build another on the property, Blackstock needed a rezoning of the property to C-3 as well as the granting of a special exception. He also requested setback variance to allow for his preferred design for the building. When the three requests came before the city Planning and Zoning board, they were met with unfavorable recommendations to city council.
Brian Wismer, Director of Community Development, and city staff found merit in the project, however. Wismer recommended approval of the rezoning, special exception, and set back variances because they offered the most attractive site design for the city, in his estimation. The site plan also called for a closure of the curb cut that gives access directly to the front parking lot of the property.
That entrance and exit point present safety concerns as it is roughly only 30 feet from where cars merge onto Highway 85 from 314. Given the geometry of that intersection, drivers are typically focused on looking left for oncoming traffic when merging, and not considering the possibility of a car turning into or pulling out of the parking lot as soon as they merge.
Wismer said closing the curb cut would be very desirable and that it was "almost unheard of" for an applicant to volunteer to close a curb cut.
Wismer also said the rezoning "could improve success" on a property that "we all know it's struggled as far as having a successful long term business."
Attorney Hakim Hilliard has spoken at various meetings on behalf of three nearby business owners, including the owner of New Wave Car Wash.
Hilliard has made a number of legal arguments against, in particular, granting a variance for set backs, saying that the applicant hadn't met the legal standard to be considered for those variances. Hilliard also suggested that Blackstock's promises of a high quality and attractive looking building were unfounded, as his other businesses did not all meet those standards. Hilliard offered some photos of other car washes owned by Blackstock that he said showed a lower standard, though Blackstock said later that those photos were selectively chosen from sites where local ordinances had prevented him from building an entirely new structure, as he plans to do in Fayetteville.
At last Thursday's meeting, Hilliard offered a number of new court cases he said undercut Blackstock's request for a variance and also revealed that he'd found many examples where Blackstock had sold his car washes to Mister Car Wash.
"This applicant, who's showing you these pretty pictures, is flipping all the properties he's got," Hilliard said. "He sells it to you then flips it to Mister Car Wash and guess what, Mister Car Wash doesn't look anything like that," Hilliard said of the designs Blackstock had shown council.
Speaking later in the meeting, Blackstock took exception to the "personal attacks" he felt were being lobbed his way. He said he did sell eight of his car washes to Mister Car Wash in order to establish at trust fund for his 22-year-old son with cerebral palsy.
"He requires a tremendous amount of care, and one of my goals in life was to set up a trust fund," Blackstock said. "I was given an opportunity to sell eight car washes when Mister Car Wash approached me. I was able to accomplish something very important and my son now will hopefully receive the care he needs his whole life. If I have to be judged poorly by that, I will be judged poorly."
Several nearby residents also attended the series of meetings to oppose the car wash. Chief in their concern seemed to be the traffic issues. The layout of the surrounding shopping center dictates that cars would have to travel through the lots of other businesses to access the Tidal Wave Car Wash. Residents, represented by Ms. Jennifer Brown, McIntosh Park Homeowners Association president, were concerned with the traffic they already felt tended to funnel toward the entrance of their residential neighborhood.
Brown also said Blackstock had hardly made any effort to speak to local residents, though he said he had given her his card after a meeting and asked that she call him if she wanted to discuss the matter.
Councilman Ed Johnson said he'd "received numerous calls and letters from local citizens who oppose this," and also differed with the staff's view that this new car wash wouldn't adversely effect nearby business owners who also offer car wash services.
"The voice of the citizens is what's important,' Johnson said. "I have to represent their best interest, and their best interest as home owners and business owners in that part of the city is we do not want this development. So that's where I stand on this."
Councilman Jim Williams said he was supportive of the rezoning and special exception, but felt granting the setback variance would "be very much to the detriment of the city."
Councilman Oddo asked Wismer to clarify whether the city would be able to exert some quality control over the look and attractiveness of the development.
"Yes we have our development guidelines and landscaping requirements," Wismer said. "Regardless of what somebody's development looks like in another town it's going to look like we want it to here in Fayetteville."
Johnson motioned to deny the rezoning but his motion died for a second. He would attempt to do the same with the special exception with the same result.
Ultimately, the rezoning and special exception were approved by council 4-1, with Johnson the sole no vote on each.
The variance was denied by council on a 4-1 with Oddo opposing.
Approving the project while denying the variance likely removed the possibility of the curb cut in question being removed, something city staff had been very happy to see done.
Williams said in an e-mail Monday that he had opposed the variance because he felt the "site plan needed more study."
"In general, the plan  needed more detail with respect to existing site features, especially tree locations, setbacks, and buffers," Williams wrote. "I find it most difficult to make intelligent variance decisions without having a really well done site plan. "


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