Developer Planning New Car Wash On South Broad Street, But Planners Say It Is Set Back Too Far

Thursday, April 6, 2017

A developer is planning a new car wash on South Broad Street, but planners say it is set back too far.

The staff of the Regional Planning Agency has recommended denial of rezoning for the project at 3100 Broad by Mike Moon.

It goes before the Planning Commission on Monday at 1 p.m. at the County Courthouse.

Applicant is requesting a deviation of 25 feet from the current maximum front yard setback of 15 feet providing a total of 40 feet for the front yard setback to develop the site with a drive-through car wash.

It would have an entrance and exit on South Broad Street with two curb cuts and include a one-story building with 110-foot car wash. A parking lot is planned on the northern half of the site.  

The 0.66-acre undeveloped site is located on the east side of the South Broad Street and West 31st Street intersection.

To the north is a large predominately undeveloped parcel. To the west and south are commercial developments.

The site is currently zoned UGC Urban General Commercial Zone. It was rezoned from M-1 Manufacturing Zone to UGC Urban General Commercial Zone in 2015 as part of a zoning study for the South Broad Area. The properties to the north, west, and south are zoned Urban General Commercial Zone. The property to the east is zoned M-1 Manufacturing Zone.  

The RPA said the South Broad Redevelopment Plan (adopted by City Council in 2003) recommends commercial uses at this site. "The Plan does continue to describe the desire for urban development patterns and the priority for pedestrian friendly development. The South Broad Redevelopment Plan led to the creation of the UGC Urban General Commercial Zone in 2007  as there was a need, 'WHEREAS, the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Regional Planning Commission has determined that there is a need to allow development to take a more traditional urban form; WHEREAS, urban standards can help ensure that the site and character of new development complements the existing urban fabric.'"

Officials said the 2007 South Broad Zoning Study studied and rezoned a section of South Broad Street north of the Creek to UGC Urban General Commercial Zone. The study described a desire for a more traditional and incremental development type along South Broad Street. This Study was expanded in 2015 to study and rezone the portion of the South Broad Area south of the Creek.     ? Deviations to the UGC Urban General Commercial are reviewed by Planning Commission. Planning Commission will review requests based on three criteria:

1. The applicant presents an alternative that complies with the stated intent, goals and general standards of the Zone.

2. The deviation from the standards is consistent with adopted plans and principles for the area.

3. The physical conditions of the property, such as steep slopes, drainage, easements, or small, irregular lot shape make compliance to specific requirements impossible.

Developer Moon said the project "presents an alternative that complies with the stated intent, goals and general standards of the Zone.  The parcel is currently vacant, but it has three curb cuts from its former use as a service station. The three curb cuts totaled together are approximately 107 feet of the 125 foot of road frontage. Our project would reduce the amount of linear footage of curb cuts from 107 foot to 36 foot, and reduce the number of cuts from three to two.

"We would be replacing the old vehicular entrances with a proper sidewalk. Landscaping and street trees along the sidewalk will turn what is currently an unappealing area of broken concrete into a more pedestrian friendly and aesthetically pleasing section of Broad Street. The deviation from the standards is consistent with adopted plans and principles for the area. The request from the 15 foot maximum front setback to 40 feet is consistent with other buildings currently in the area along Broad Street  - particularly auto oriented uses. The Wendy's on the property to the west of this parcel has a setback of approximately 36 feet. The ice machine on the parcel to the east has an approximate setback of four foot. Other newer properties like Krystal have a setback of almost 80 feet. The physical conditions of the property, such as steep slopes, drainage, easements, or small, irregular lot shape make compliance to specific requirements impossible. The lot size makes it impossible to comply with the specific requirements of the UGC zone. In general it is difficult to comply with the requirements of the UGC zone for auto oriented and car wash uses allowed by the zone.” 

RPA staff said the stated intent of the zone is "to promote traditional urban development with multi-story buildings built close to the sidewalk and a mix of uses within each site and within individual buildings. Such urban places are intended to provide a concentration of goods and services that attract commerce — all within a walkable environment. As supported in the Comprehensive Plan, the Urban General Commercial Zone is also intended to promote higher density development that supports transit and multi-modal transportation including automobile, bicycle, and pedestrian traffic. The intent is to reduce the need for parking as these urban areas are generally serviced by a well-connected street grid and transit system. Pedestrian and bicycle facilities also play an important role in reducing parking needs by reducing the number of vehicular trips. Parking reductions may also be used in conjunction with all shared parking options to further reduce the number of spaced required.

"For the purposes of the UGC Urban General Commercial Zone, it is intended that use of existing buildings be considered 'redevelopment' and if a conflict occurs with standards for height, setback, and building footprint square footage, proposed redevelopment shall be considered legal, non-conforming when proposed changes meet the urban character intent as stated in” While the applicant did reduce the number of curb cuts from three to two, the large proposed setback (40 ft) combined with two curb-cuts is not consistent with the zone’s intention of traditional urban development.   

"While staff acknowledges that the proposed setback is consistent with the adjacent Wendy’s property, this property was developed prior to the adoption of the UGC zone which promotes buildings closer to the street and minimized curb cuts. ? The proposal is not supported by the recommendations of the adopted Land Use Plan which calls for new construction to be built in a traditional urban pattern with pedestrian-oriented businesses and buildings directly fronting the sidewalk.  The Plan states that 'One of the most critical elements for transforming the South Broad corridor into a pedestrian friendly, viable commercial destination is building setbacks.  Changing building placement to the sidewalk along South Broad is a long-term change that requires incremental implementation with each new development.'

"The South Broad Redevelopment Plan further states:  'Any new development in this node should be sited with the buildings directly fronting the sidewalk and street, with parking lots and other mechanical services located to the rear.    This zero setback repeats the pattern already established by the Southern Saddlery buildings and creates a much more interesting street edge.' Buildings can be setback from the street and maintain a pedestrian, walkable environment when the space between the building and street is animated with a plaza/park; in this case a significant portion of the front yard is occupied by vehicular drives.    This is more conducive to a suburban development pattern and is not consistent with the adopted plan policy.

"The property does not have any environmental, topographic, or irregularity in lot shape which causes a hardship. The hardship described is self-imposed as other lots in the area could allow for such a development in the same zone without deviations. 

"The proposal would set a precedent for future requests by ignoring the incremental development desired by the zoning study and Plan.

"The intended desire from the 2015 Zoning Study and the intention of the UGC Urban General Commercial Zone is to encourage new development to meet a higher design and quality rather than mimicking older existing development."  

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