A new car dealership is interested in opening between the CarMax and Cadillac of South Charlotte lots on North Polk Street. But before it can, Pineville leaders must change a rule governing dealership lot sizes originally put in place in part to avoid turning the area into an Independence Boulevard-style mess.
Pineville Properties LLC has asked the town to adjust restrictions that currently force car dealerships to be located on a minimum of 10 acres and 35,000 square feet of building space – a rule put in place in the early 2000s “due to prior decades of unrestrained suburban growth and concern for the oversaturation of used car lots flowing down from South Boulevard,” according to a town memo. The change would allow a dealership to squeeze between the CarMax and the Cadillac locations on 6 acres and 28,000 square feet of building space. The town also could be asked to consider decreasing the restriction on lot size all the way down to 4.5 acres.
Changing the restrictions wouldn’t automatically greenlight the proposal, which would still have to come before town council for approval with site plans and other information. But it would affect all the town’s land zoned B-3 and B-4, a business classification, that is mostly situated along Polk Street and a portion in the shopping center north of N.C. 51 that includes the BlackLion and K&W Cafeteria. Of the B-3 and B-4 lots, only a very small percentage are currently vacant.
“This is the first serious request” for a dealership on fewer than 10 acres since the rule was put in place, Town Planner Travis Morgan said. The Cadillac dealership is on 7.9 acres, and the CarMax is on 5.3 acres, both approved before the change. “We get inquiries all the time about different uses, every type of use that they could think of.”
But town leaders are wary of doing something that could allow the packed car dealership market on South Boulevard, or like what is seen on a portion of Independence Boulevard, to trickle closer to downtown Pineville. The CarMax and Cadillac dealerships are already joined on the Pineville side of Interstate 485 by the Mercedes-Benz of South Charlotte, and much of the land along Polk between the interstate and Dorman Road is zoned B-3 or B-4.
“This was changed (to) 10 acres for a reason,” said Councilman David Phillips, who wasn’t on the board when the rule was approved but said he agrees with what essentially allows for fewer car dealerships, but ones with a higher quality. “I think what we have in place right now would be sufficient – I’m not sure why we’re looking to change it.”
One reason to consider changing the rule is it would make it easier for a property owner to combine two adjoining lots to reach the minimum required acreage. But allowing the stretch of Pineville Road/Polk Street to turn into the town’s “Car Dealership Lane” isn’t appealing to some on council.
“Do we really want people to come off of the interstate and just see car lots?” Mayor Pro-tem Melissa Rogers Davis said, referring to an area that serves as a gateway into Pineville for many. “We don’t know what the future of car lots are going to be.”
But a nice gateway into town could still include a number of car lots, some on town council said, assuming those lots are held to the same architectural standards as what is already located on North Polk Street.
“We could have a nice looking car lot without it looking like a sea of cars, and looking nice to enter into the town,” Councilman Les Gladden said. “I think we need to look more into it to see if it may be beneficial to the town. I think we have a hard decision to make.”
Rogers Davis agreed that the town shouldn’t outright dismiss the issue despite her hesitancy, though added “it would still look like car lot after car lot” if changing the acreage rule leads to more dealerships filling vacant North Polk Street lots.
This specific car lot would employ 97 people, according to a town memo, but the type and amount of cars that would go at the lot has not been announced. That information won’t be provided until the developer comes forward with the actual proposal if the text amendment is changed to allow for 6-acre lots.
The rule change would not mean any changes that allow for auto shops or maintenance facilities other than what is already allowed at the lots as a secondary usage, Morgan said. The planning board will make a recommendation on the proposal in the next few weeks, and town council could vote on the change at its May 13 meeting. The change could include conditions limiting where the rule would take affect and other restrictions, Morgan said.