Cornelius commissioners on Monday night put off a vote on a proposed expansion of Lake Norman Hyundai, expressing reservations about the building’s design and the image of a 338-car parking lot off I-77 at the town’s “front yard.”
“I’m really disappointed in the architecture,” Mayor Lynette Rinker said. “I was hoping for something more Infinit, but I got something Hyundai.”
Current town planning rules do not allow car dealerships, other than those already here when the ordinance was passed. But the rules do allow expansion of existing dealerships.
Said Mayor Rinker: “If we’re going to allow another dealership in our front yard, I want something spectacular.”
The board voted 4-0 to continue until next month a public hearing on the rezoning request by dealership owner Rick Zoerb. Mr. Zoerb needs the change to expand the dealership onto about 6 acres along I-77 Service Road, in the Exit 28 area. The land is owned by the Blakeley family, south of the current dealership and next to Kobe Hero restaurant.
He is asking the town to rezone the land from Rural Preservation, which would not allow an auto dealership, to Highway Commercial, which would. The estimated $3 million to $4 million project also would be subject to a variety of conditions if approved, including removal of some on-street parking and approval of a final design by the Architectural Review Board.
Mr. Zoerb told commissioners he expects to add about 35 to 40 employees at the business, on top of the current 110. If approved he plans to convert the current dealership on Chartwell Center Driv into a used-car lot. The new Hyundai dealership would have 338 parking spaces, providing more parking for both vehicles for sale and those of customers and employees, he said.
Right now, some customers and employees park on streets around the existing dealership. David Grassi, a lawyer for owners of the nearby Kobe Hero restaurant, said they would oppose the rezoning. They’re concerned that “being sandwiched between two dealerships” will hurt business.
The town’s planning and transportation advisory boards already have approved the plan. The Architecture Review Board approved preliminary drawings for the proposed 23,000-square foot auto showroom on Nov. 30, and will review the project again once detailed plans are developed.
The planning staff is recommending several conditions, including a review of final designs by staff and the architecture board, screening for dumpsters and heating/air conditioning equipment, and removal of some on-street parking on Chartwell Center Drive to improve visibility for vehicles entering and leaving the dealership.
Commissioner Chuck Travis was among the commissioners who raised concerns, saying, “This looks like an engineer solution to a design problem to me.”
He and other commissioners objected to the giant parking lot. “It’s an exercise in how do you maximize parking on the site,” he said.
Of the four commissioners, only John Bradford said he was ready to approve the plan. He said he had no problem with the architecture. He expressed support for the the expansion of a local business, which would create jobs in town.
In the end, Commissioner Dave recommended putting off a decision and urging the developer to come up with a new site plan and drawings that address the board’s concerns.
- Also Monday, the board put off vote on renewing the town’s lease at the Cornelius Arts Center, 19725 Oak Street, Unit 1. The deal with owner Regal Oaks LLC would be for an initial three years, from May 1, 2013, to April 30, 2016, renewable annually for another two years.
- The board saw a presentation from Jennifer Sisak of Ratio Architects, which is designing aesthetic enhancements to the planned “diverging diamond interchange,” or DDI, on the Catawba Avenue/Exit 28 bridge over I-77. She told commissioners the N.C. Department of Transportation has put some limits on what can be done to improve the appearance of the overpass. Town officials expressed support for revised drawings, which continue to call for a pedestrian walkway through the center of the bridge, between two big architectural features: masts and cables. The town and its consultants hope to submit a final design to the DOT April 30, and the project could be in the works by fall.
- At its preliminary meeting at 6pm, the board met with residents and representatives of the Smithville Community Coalition. The board asked Town Manager Anthony Roberts to pursue plans for a community garden at the corner of Catawba Avenue and South Hill Street. The town tore down a house on the site last year, and has agreed to work with residents to create a Cornelius community garden there. The project would required about $10,000 in startup costs for irrigation, building raised beds and a gravel parking lot. Board members informally agreed to spend the money.
March 4, 2013, Cornelius Town Board agenda with related documents.