Zoning Board paves way for Black River Blvd. car wash

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Despite comments from local residents stating the city already has “too many car washes” and that two additional sites proposed by Hoffman Development Corp. of Albany would be in competition with similar neighboring existing businesses, Rome Zoning Board unanimously approved a special use permit for 1727 Black River Blvd. during a public hearing held virtually Wednesday.

The site of what would be a new 6,400-square-foot Hoffman Car Wash & Jiffy Lube was the former Rite Aid Pharmacy that neighbors Key Bank, across the street from Black River Plaza.

Hoffman Development had been before the Planning Board Tuesday for consideration of State Environmental Quality Review and site plan review approvals for a proposed car wash site at 1315 Erie Blvd. W., but the items were tabled for the board’s March 2 meeting.

Gavin Vuillaume, landscape architect with Environmental Design Partnership, which is serving as the civil engineer for the project, explained to board members that he, along with Hoffman officials, presented plans for their car wash at 1315 Erie Blvd. W. the night before, and that the layout of the proposed building at 1727 Black River Blvd., in relation to the roadway, is “almost identical.”

The site “is 1.42 acres, which is similar in size to Erie Boulevard,” Vuillaume said. “We would remove everything that’s there now — the building and parking. The property itself is almost 85 percent building or pavement. With our layout, we hope to improve the site from 14 percent to 40 percent green space, which is a benefit of the new layout we have. It will generate less run-off, along with stormwater management, and overall it’s a better looking development.”

Vuillaume further explained that the car wash building would be located directly at the center of the site, and the existing parking lot would be modified sightly so customers could drive in and get into the teller lanes.

Marty Andrews, director of development for Hoffman, said once vehicles exit the car wash bays, they will exit a driveway shared by Key Bank.

“It will be modified slightly, but customers will use that as the main way of exiting the property,” said Andrews. “We’ve got nine employee/visitor parking spaces at the rear of the parcel. We’ll have a trash enclosure area that will be kept toward the back of the building, which will be well-screened from any adjacent property.”

Andrews pointed out that the site plan adheres to city codes standards by including 6-foot fencing around the perimeter of the property, with trees planted every 3 feet along the fencing. He said the proposed project meets all current setbacks associated with the district, with no problem with access to water and sewer utilities.

Hoffman car washes “are very well manicured as far as maintenance, and we feel the building will be very attractive and work very well on this particular property,” Andrews added. “Cars will go through the point-of-sale tellers, go through the conveyor, then go through the car wash. You’d be able to pay with credit card or cash, and there will be three lanes — well enough to handle the volume of cars.”

Zoning Board member Jon Maggiolino asked how long it would take a vehicle to get through the wash tunnel, and Andrews indicated “a little less than 2 1/2 minutes, so it’s a highly productive process.”

Andrews said, “This particular site is a little larger than ones we’ve done lately, which have been about 1 acre, so the traffic flow is very good for this site. And we will make it attractive, and have it blend with the commercial traffic.”

Zoning Board Chairman John Sorbello then read comments from the public that were submitted 24 hours prior to the public hearing. Some local residents said they’d prefer a business “that employs people” replace the old pharmacy, rather than a car wash that’s automated.

William Rapke, who has spoken out against the placement of a Hoffman Car Wash at the former West Rome School site at 1315 Erie Blvd. W. due to the need for historic preservation, asked that Hoffman consider “multiple sites that are more appropriate” than the 1315 Erie Blvd. W. site.

Another resident stated that large car washes are already located near both of Hoffman’s proposed sites in the city, and that they weren’t in favor of Hoffman building near competitors that were “already established businesses.”

Others complained that the city needed more retail businesses and that a car wash “doesn’t create jobs.”

As a member of Key Bank, James Brady questioned the sharing of a driveway with his financial institution.

“I don’t think there’s enough room for car wash there,” he said.

Others said city officials should consider that the proposed site is already “flood sensitive,” and that there is a possibility for trash and noise pollution.

Following the reading of public comments, board member Jim DiCastro said he felt the driveway was adequate for getting vehicles off the highway, and asked Hoffman to address any possible concerns for noise/sound pollution.

As for comments about there being too many car washes in the city, DiCastro said, “I own a restaurant and when I opened my business, everyone said, ‘Oh, another pizzeria in Rome? We don’t need another one of those,’ yet we’re still here. Convenience stores? You can say the same about them. Why do we need them? There’s one just down the road. Yet, they’re still here. I understand the support for Rome businesses, but if you’re in Rome, you’re a Rome business.”

Andrews then stated that the car wash would operate from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. and with a “central bagging system on this site, it will be much quieter, and we have mufflers on all our dryers.”

It was later mentioned during the meeting that if for some reason that noise from the car wash did not meet the allowable decimals or if a complaint was received, it would be up to Hoffman Development to hire a sound engineer to fix the problem, at the company’s cost.

Andrews further noted that the “quiet end” of the car wash would be located near the residential district.

“The loudest part is the drying system and that part of the building is located along the commercial road,” he said.

As for site lighting, Andrews said the business uses its own control system and can “shut a lot off,” except for one or two light posts, for safety purposes at night, eliminating any light pollution.

After pointing out that the site appeared to meet all specifications, and that the state Department of Transportation was “not concerned about traffic,” Chairman Sorbello said, “This building was for sale and anyone could buy it. I don’t see the need to deny it. And if there’s a sound complaint, it’s up to them, at their cost, to hire a sound engineer.”

Stating that the car wash would “further enhance the area,” board members voted unanimously to award the special use permit.

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