Text amendment would allow car care center
Thanks to a recommended change in Union County zoning, residents near Hunter Oaks could soon see a car repair shop going up.
Raley-Miller CEO David Miller petitioned the Union County Planning Board Tuesday, Nov. 1 for a change in the county’s zoning for the commercial property, located right in front of the Kohl’s at the intersection of Tom Short and Rea roads. Currently car repair shops aren’t allowed in the B2 zoning district. Since a gas station was allowed, where minor repairs are fixed, why not let a full car repair shop operate, Miller argued.
“We feel it’s a viable use for a retail shopping center,” Miller told the board. “We see in many upscale neighborhoods, people need a place where they can provide for their travel needs and minor car repair. It’s a neighborhood service.”
The catch for residents and some planning board members is that a car care center is a far cry from what Miller originally promoted for the property. In talks earlier this year, Miller met with Hunter Oaks Homeowners Association President Todd Haynes and Ivy Brook Academy owner Drew McWilliams, as well as organizing multiple neighborhood meetings, to discuss what would be in the Kohl’s shopping center. The discussions and plans at that time pointed to a retail only establishment, with a Dunkin Doughnuts and other stores to shop. Residents and planning board members alike reflected that the new request was a change from what had come before.
“What’s the direction we’re talking about here?” Planning Board Vice Chair Jim Thornton asked. “We went from a pedestrian scale to an automotive scale.”
Residents don’t oppose development, Haynes said. They just wanted it to be something that fit with their neighborhood.
“Mr. Miller showed us plans, met with our homeowners, talking about building a place to bring your family,” Haynes said. “A car-care center is not an area for your family to go and walk around. I’m all for a partnership. We’re just asking him to be reasonable.”
Haynes also questioned why no one from Hunter Oaks was notified of Miller’s intent to appear Tuesday night before the planning board. The only reason anyone showed up, Haynes said, was due to Hunter Oaks resident and former planning board member Liza Kravis, who read the agenda. McWilliams also presented a petition to the board of 500 parents from his school, opposed to the project. Kravis said a retail project would get support from the community.
“The neighborhood supported that plan and was looking forward to that type of development,”Kravis said
Other Hunter Oaks residents said they opposed the project for health reasons.
“A garage such as this type would have four times the amount of carbon monoxide than just a normal garage you would have in your house,” Hunter Oaks Governance Affairs Committee member Neil Gimon said. “That’s going to involve solvents, lead products, asbestos, especially in older cars. Why introduce this into the environment?”
Torn on a decision
Board Chairman Everette Medlin said he was concerned about approving a text amendment that would affect the whole county, based on the information from one parcel.
“It’s difficult to make a text amendment change for a single entity and that’s what I feel we’re doing tonight,” Medlin said. “I respect the right of them to use their property, they have property rights as business owners. I know our county needs the growth, we need the business, we need the taxes.”
Miller told the board his company is negotiating with AAA to fill that parcel, if the text amendment was approved. Raley Miller Properties owns both the northeast and southeast corner of the shopping center. The second parcel, Miller said, could have a gas station, although adding no deals had been struck with either potential tenant.
The planning board recommended the text amendment by a 5 to 1 vote, with Everette Medlin opposing.