Zoning Change Denied for Car Repair Business
The Carthage Planning Board is recommending that the town commissioners deny a request to permit car repair shops in the downtown Central Business District.
Also during the meeting Thursday night, the board recommended that the town commissioners approve a request from Roland Gilliam to change zoning rules for lots at the airport from "conditional" to "permitted" use.
Rick Edelman had asked the town to amend the zoning ordinance to make car repair businesses a permitted use in the Central Business District. (CBD)
While that type of business is not a permitted use in the district, two others are located in the downtown area. Rob's Auto on the corner of McNeil and Monroe streets "grandfathered" because it was in operation before the zoning ordinance was changed to prohibit them.
The same goes for another location across the street and around the corner where Lee Bolerjack opened his foreign car repair shop three years ago -- the only one anywhere in the immediate Carthage area -- and bought a home on McNeil Street a short walk away.
Bolerjack wanted to move into huge vacant spaces in the old fire station, which Edelman owns. His eBay marketing business operates in another part of the building.
Edelman said he had gone to the Town Hall on April 2 to see about changing his business license address to that new location and that he spoke to Town Manager Carol Sparks about it.
Sparks denies ever telling him he could move the car repair shop into the old fire station. She told the Planning Board that she knows such businesses are not presently allowed in that district.
Thinking he had an OK from the town, Bolerjack went to considerable expense moving lifts and other equipment across the street and around the corner into the old fire station only to have a visit from the town code enforcement officer, Sgt. John Gibbons, of the Carthage Police Department.
Gibbons told Edelman and Bolerjack that car repair was not a "permitted use" in the CBD. He'd have to cease operations until and unless the zoning law changed, Gibbons told the planning board.
Edelman stopped Bolerjack from working there and applied for the zoning amendment. At Thursday's meeting, he told the board he thought he had asked for either a permitted or a conditional-use change and also asked to be allowed to conduct live auctions on the site as well as the Internet auctions he is presently operating on eBay.
"We are not asking for the zoning to be changed, just asking for a conditional-use permit," Edelman said.
"Well, it is a zoning text amendment, so that changes the zoning," Sparks said. "That's why we had to do that."
"Lee Bolerjack wanted to move across the street to my location," Edelman said. "We thought we had the proper approval. We found that we did not. Once we learned it was not a permitted use, he stopped performing repair work on our property. My business is a licensed auction firm in North Carolina, and I would like permission to have live auctions."
Parking rules require three available spaces for each service bay, one per service vehicle and one for each worker on the largest shift. Sparks went over other requirements.
"What steps did you take before you moved in?" Connie Burns asked.
Edelman said he had asked Bolerjack to check with the town manager.
"He told me he'd spoken with Carol," Edelman said. "We thought we had permission until we received the legal notice."
Many on the board appeared unhappy about the business moving in and starting operations before obtaining documented permission.
The Planning Board is an advisory body. It makes recommendations to the town commissioners, who have the final say on whether to approve or deny requests such as this.
The Town Board is required to hold its own public hearing before voting on the request. The hearing is set for July 20, according to Sparks. At that time, commissioners could follow the Planning Board recommendation to deny the request, or it could vote to amend the law and make auto repair a CBD permitted use. That would mean repair shops could operate anywhere in that district, Sparks pointed out.
A number of residents urged the board during its public hearing to approve this request. Acting Chairman Chris Lassiter was disinclined to do so from the beginning.
"From my perspective, that is not really an acceptable use," Lassiter said.
After considerable public comment, Lassiter proposed that the board go into a closed session to talk about the proposal in private. The Pilot raised an objection, saying that would violate North Carolina's open meetings law. The board decided not to go into a closed session.
Board members said that while they were impressed by the praise Bolerjack received, they could not go along with the request.
Contact John Chappell at 783-5841 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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