New car wash stirs storm
Akinsdale neighbours concerned about parking, traffic and safety
By: Kevin Ma
| Posted: Wednesday, Jan 18, 2012 10:05 am
This car wash is on a plot zoned neighbourhood commercial, or C-1, said Curtis Cundy, St. Albert's director of planning and development. These regions are meant to provide goods and services to the immediate neighbourhood and can feature convenience, specialty and video stores. Gas bars and car washes are allowed as discretionary uses.
Akinsdale residents say they’re surprised by the news that a 15-bay car wash will soon be popping up in the middle of their neighbourhood.
Construction started on a new 1,336-square-metre car wash at 23C Akins Drive late last week. The building sits on what used to be an open field in front of the Appleyard Square shopping complex, which contains a day care and LB’s Pub.
Keri McEachern, who lives nearby, said she learned about it when she saw the construction fences go up last week.
“I just couldn’t believe it,” she said. “I think it’s odd that a 15-bay car wash would go in a residential neighbourhood.”
Linda Beier, who owns LB’s Pub, said she was very upset by this development, as it would make it tough to see her business from the street.
“It would totally block access to my business and leave me with no parking.”
The property in question has been zoned commercial since about 1979, which permits the construction of car washes, said Coun. Cam MacKay, who was familiar with the development. The property has been vacant for decades.
City resident Jay Tarrabian owns the new car wash and said St. Albert needs more of them and this was a great location for one.
“It’s going to be a first-class car wash,” he said, featuring heated floors, softened water, and 14 regular car bays in addition to one for RVs.
McEachern said she worried about the traffic the business could bring to her neighbourhood, as it could make the streets more dangerous for her kids. “I’m just really afraid a child is going to get hurt.”
Beier also raised concerns about parking. “On wing night, [the parking lot] is totally packed,” she said, and a draft plan she had seen of the car wash suggested that it would eliminate many parking stalls. “Where are they going to park now?”
Tarrabian said the car wash will only need three parking stalls and would not eliminate any of the ones currently on the site. He said the car wash would be about 21 metres from the front of LB’s Pub, and would be built and landscaped to fit in with the mall.
“It’s going to be a fairly nice looking car wash.”
It’s legal, says city
This development came before the Subdivision and Development Appeal Board last May since it was about 10 metres closer to nearby homes than allowed, said MacKay, who sits on the board and oversaw this case. The appeal hearing was advertised to all landowners within 100 metres of the site and in the Gazette.
The board heard from two residents who opposed the development, according to a report of the hearing. Those residents said the car wash would worsen current parking and noise problems in the region if built, and potentially lower property values.
The board heard that the business would be a wand-wash facility, rather than a louder fully automated one, and would have exits that maximized sight lines so drivers could spot children. Tarrabian had not done, and was not required to do, a traffic assessment. He also planned to use landscaping and automatic doors to minimize the effects of light and noise pollution.
The board agreed to let the car wash proceed. It had not received any proof that it would lower property values, did not feel it would cause parking problems (as it was a drive-through) and felt Tarrabian had taken steps to address any safety, noise, and light concerns.
But it attached 25 conditions. Tarrabian must have a mutual parking agreement with the owner of Appleyard Square before he opens for business, for example, and must prevent lights and headlights from shining into nearby properties. He must have automatic bay doors to trap noise inside the car wash, and cannot have any vacuums outside. He must also operate the wash between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m.
MacKay said he was surprised that the development went ahead despite these conditions.
“I would have preferred this not be built,” he said, but land use laws permit car washes on this site. “All we can look at is that it complies with the law.”
He said he would be willing to arrange a meeting between Tarrabian and concerned residents to work out their concerns.
Tarrabian said he planned to open the car wash in about five months.