Midtown Raleigh News

Neighbors appeal OK for Glenwood car lot

A controversial used-car lot proposal for Glenwood Avenue is headed to the Raleigh City Council next month.

A group of residents from the Brookhaven neighborhood behind the site filed a formal appeal last week to the planning commission’s approval for Enterprise Car Sales to build on the property. They’ve hired attorney Robin Currin to represent their concerns at a quasi-judicial hearing before the city council, likely to be held in April.

The Brookhaven appeal faces considerable odds. The hearing requires sworn factual testimony – no statements of opinion – and the homeowners can’t speak to council members in advance. Jean Swain, whose name appears on the appeal, said she’s been told a win would be “unprecendented.”

“I can’t let it go without trying to do as much as I can,” Swain said Friday. “We are doing the right thing.”

Neighbors fear the dealership could pose traffic and safety problems for the quiet neighborhood behind the site. Several people whose yards border the property say they’ve experienced flooding thanks to their proximity to the parking lot.

Developers working on the car dealership say the business should create one-tenth the traffic of its predecessor, a busy Italian restaurant, and they’ve offered to limit test drives through residential streets.

Enterprise representatives have met with neighbors and offered to add more plants as a buffer to the surrounding homes as well as limit operating hours, but Swain says a used-car business is a bad fit no matter what compromises Enterprise can offer.

“A used-car lot has a certain air about it, and it really doesn’t matter what times of day this business operates,” she said. “It’s windshields and lights 24-7. It’s just not appropriate.”

It also doesn’t escape neighbors’ notice that the Enterprise location is moving from a blighted section of Capital Boulevard north of downtown. They’re worried that with a number of vacant businesses on their stretch of Glenwood past Crabtree Valley Mall, the area could wind up looking more like Capital – especially if the precedent is set for car dealerships.

Opponents of the car lot say the city’s planning and zoning rules haven’t given them enough opportunity to weigh in. Rezoning proposals get plenty of vetting – the debate over a proposed Publix in North Raleigh, for example – but the Glenwood site is keeping its zoning designation, even as it switches uses from restaurant to used-car lot.

That meant the planning commission was charged only with reviewing a site plan showing how the business will look. Swain says the city’s comprehensive plan for the area calls for more neighborhood-oriented business, and neighbors say they want smaller shops or a restaurant.

“We’d love something that we could walk to,” Swain said. “There’s a lot of potential on Glenwood.”