Plans for a new used-car superstore on Corby Avenue head to the Santa Rosa City Council on Tuesday for approval of what would be the latest update to the city’s automobile row.
CarMax, the nation’s largest used-car retailer, wants to build a 13,000 square foot used car dealership and car wash on the site of the Hansel Auto Group’s former Prestige Imports dealership.
The project passed the Planning Commission in June on a 5-0 vote despite concern about how the new dealership would impact parking and traffic in the area.
Employees and customers of auto dealers often park on the shoulder along the east side of Corby Avenue and walk across the busy street. The road has no sidewalks on either side because it was designed as and remains a largely drive-to shopping destination.
Planning Commission Peter Stanley, who supports the CarMax project, said he has safety concerns about the traffic and parking patterns.
“I go down there a lot and I see people walking in those lanes and it seems dangerous to me,” Stanley said.
Neighboring dealers are worried, too. They noted that Corby Avenue has no turning lanes which causes traffic backups and the employees who use the dirt shoulder along Highway 101 to park create safety issues for themselves and others.
“We have a city infrastructure here, but we have county roads,” said Jerry Reid, president of Mercedes-Benz of Santa Rosa, which itself built a new showroom several years ago.
CarMax officials convinced planning commissioners, however, that project would not contribute to the traffic or parking issues in the area. They noted that the project will include 176 parking spaces, more than triple what the city requires, and would load and unload trucks on the property, not on the street.
The company pointed out that it will employ 90 employees and that an average CarMax location generates $94 million in revenue annually.
The Fortune 500 company started in 1993 in Richmond, Va., and has since grown t more than 100 dealerships nationwide. It had $13 billion in sales during the 12 months ending in May.
The project needs City Council approval because it requires a rezoning of four light industrial parcels on the west end of the property to allow car sales. The parcels around Quillco Court will be merged together with the former Prestige site to create a single 7-acre lot. The city is also abandoning its rights to Quillco Court, which will be demolished along with the four existing buildings.
“When it’s done, it’ll be one parcel uniformly zoned for car sales,” planner Bill Rose said.
The building, which resembles a Wal-Mart or other big box store, will not be reviewed by the city’s Design Review Board under rules meant to stimulate business through a streamlined city approvals process. Instead the design was approved by a city planner acting as zoning administrator, Rose said.
You can reach Staff Writer Kevin McCallum at 521-5207 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @citybeater.
For information and a video showing how the new crosswalk signal works, go to: http://ci.santa-rosa.ca.us/departments/publicworks/traffic/Pages/HAWKSignals.aspx