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Village Planning talks limitations on auto dealerships

by Briana Barker | Reporter Published: August 17, 2016 12:00 AM

Northfield Village -- While there are presently no applications for car dealerships to come to the village, the Planning Commission met July 20 to discuss some proposed new regulations that would apply to automobile sales establishments.

"We are just trying to be proactive," Law Director Brad Bryan said. "We have some vacant parcels; we have some other commercial parcels along the Route 8 corridor and obviously / most of them abut residential properties."

Bryan added auto sales establishments present particular issues for the village including parking, noise, vehicle circulation, cleanliness and aesthetic challenges. He said by adopting "common sense restrictions" the village can combat potential problems. There are no automotive dealerships in the area currently that these regulations would affect.

One proposed regulation would restrict sales to a combination of new and used vehicles, with the number of used vehicles occupying less than 40 percent of the inventory.

No junk, or inoperative vehicles would be allowed to remain outside on the property for more than 48 hours, and auto dealerships wound need lots larger than 85,000 square feet.

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A service garage, leasing department and other activities customarily included in full-service dealerships would be permitted, provided they are conducted in a wholly enclosed building. This provision would also limit any potential dealership to franchised, new automobile dealerships.

Bryan said limiting sales to franchised new auto dealerships would help ensure regulations are followed. He said Cleveland Heights already has such a restriction in place.

Council member Alan Hipps said that while it is a good way to seek high standards, he thinks companies like Carmax, which only deals in used cars, also keep their properties well-maintained.

"It is a franchised dealership, but they don't deal in new cars," Hipps said. "We would be limiting to new owners ... I would hate to lose an opportunity."

Service Director Jason Walters weighed in by stating Hipps was correct, but Carmax dealerships are huge in size and that the Summit Plaza area wouldn't even be large enough to accommodate one of their operations.

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To protect residents who may abut a dealership, the regulation would require a buffer zone of at least 50 feet. Additionally the buffer zone would have to be landscaped with grass, shrubs, trees and a 6-foot fence.

Lighting was also discussed amongst the commission members. Mayor Jesse Nehez said a provision for light pollution needs to be included.

Engineer Richard Wasosky said even with zero cutoff lights, lights used at dealerships still glow.

Nehez said he doesn't see such dealerships as being a benefit.

"We are not getting anything off the car that they sell, nothing," Nehez said.

Walters said if they have a large business like Carmax to come to the village, they would benefit from the 40-50 employees and jobs the dealership would bring. He added the village doesn't want a bunch of junk cars "on a postage stamp sized lot."

Walters said there hasn't been any reason to think any dealerships including Carmax-type businesses have been looking at the village but more that the village was being proactive to ensure that no smaller lots with inexpensive cars would set up shop in the area.

Hipps said a benefit is increased traffic through the village which increases the value of the plaza property making more businesses attracted to opening in the plaza.

Council scheduled a work session for Aug. 24 at 6 p.m. to discuss the proposed changes and add input before the commission makes its final recommendation to Council to approve the supplemental regulations.

Briana Barker: 330-541-9432

bbarker@recordpub.com

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