Hunter Oaks, Somerset, Marvin Creek residents speak out
Editor’s note: The original version that ran in print left out the phrase “residents said”, before mentioning discussions about a Dunkin Donuts or other specific uses for the property. Residents say that Raley-Miller presented detailed plans for a commercial development, while Miller himself says he never discussed specific buildings or stores.
Residents who live near the intersection of Tom Short and Rea roads don’t want any type of car-care center near their homes.
During a public hearing at the county commission’s Tuesday, Jan. 3 meeting, speakers from Hunter Oaks, Marvin Creek and Somerset neighborhoods all made it clear while they didn’t oppose all development, they wanted something more in tune with their lifestyle.
“We should not be making text amendments for individual properties,” former planning board member Liza Kravis said. “They should be global in nature. We understand there is going to be commercial development at this corner.”
Raley-Miller CEO David Miller filed a request earlier this year for a text amendment to the county’s land use ordinance, for the commercial property, located right in front of the Kohl’s at the intersection of Tom Short and Rea roads.Auto repair shops are allowed as part of a gas station within the B2 zoning district. However a car care center by itself, with no gas station pumps, is not. The text amendment would allow Miller to contract for a car care center. At the Nov. 1 planning board hearing, Miller told board members his company was currently negotiating to fill that space. Raley Miller Properties owns both the northeast and southeast corner of the shopping center.
But residents complain 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. Residents say the discussions and plans at that time pointed to a retail-only establishment, with a Dunkin’ Donuts and other stores to shop.
“The people are worried,” Village of Marvin council member Ross Oversby said. “They have memories of the Wal-Mart era and what it took to bring that to a logical conclusion. They’re worried about what’s going to be in the neighborhood. It’s now big box, gone to automobile repair.”
The county has 20- to 30-year-old ordinances, Oversby said. It’s time to hold off on any more text amendments until those ordinances get updated to reflect the current reality.
“We need to let the county take a deep breath and look at the needs of the people,” Oversby said.
Miller disputes the claim from residents that he promised one thing and did another. He denies having plans for a Dunkin’ Donuts at that location, pointing to the fact the final set of plans for the area doesn’t have any location for a drive-through or any other building specific designs.
Other residents highlighted what they felt were health concerns that a car care center would bring into the area.
“Exhaust fumes from cars can cause a number of issues,” Hunter Oaks resident Neil Gimon said. “Why should we introduce this number of pollutants into our neighborhood?”
Gimon and other residents said they weren’t the target demographic for a AAA car care center, feeling that it would go out of business.
“The household median income that uses a AAA car care center is (between) $30 to $40,000,” Haynes said. “That is not what’s represented in this area. The cars in this area are not cars that typically have 100,000 miles on them.”
Instead, Haynes told commissioners, residents have their own garage or mechanic they go to for automotive problems.
“This is not the correct area for this to be put in,” Haynes said.”
Questions had been raised as to why the public hearing needed to be held, since county commissioners had voted in 2010 to stop hearing all text amendments, until the county’s land use plan could be rewritten. The catch is that commissioners agreed to stop hearing any text amendments proposed by the county, not eliminate requests from outside parties. Under the current ordinances, once the applicant paid his fee, the planning board had to hear and make a recommendation on the project.