Midtown Raleigh News

Council OKs Glenwood Avenue car lot despite neighbors’ pleas

City leaders approved plans for a used car lot on Glenwood Avenue Tuesday despite neighborhood opposition, saying their hands were tied because the developer met all city requirements.

The 5-2 city council vote allows Enterprise to build the facility on the former site of a Ragazzi’s restaurant, on Glenwood about a mile west of Crabtree Valley Mall. The rental car company curently sells its old vehicles at a location on Capital Boulevard. Neighbors say it’s a bad fit for the entrance to the Brookhaven subdivision.

“As much as we want to help neighbors from time to time, I don’t think we can turn this one down,” Councilman John Odom said.

Councilman Bonner Gaylord said that while he sympathizes with neighbors, he worried that voting against the car lot could prompt a lawsuit. Under rules established by state law, the council could only consider whether the development meets eight requirements involving parking, landscaping and other issues – not whether they support hte project.

“We’ve had previous circumstances such as this ... and we end up voting against it and getting sued, and we lose,” Gaylord said.

Some council members wanted to delay the vote and ask developers to negotiate further with the neighborhood. But city attorney Tom McCormick said that approach was legally “troubling” and cautioned against it.

Brookhaven resident Scott Lasso, who made the neighbors’ case, said the two-hour hearing proved frustrating. “It doesn’t seem like this decision reflects well thought-out comprehensive planning and development, to essentially begin that corridor of Glenwood Avenue with a used car lot,” he said.

Lasso fears the approval for Enterprise will pave the way for more car lots on a rapidly changing section of Glenwood. The Ragazzi’s site sat empty for years before Enterprise rented the lot, and several other nearby restaurants – Fat Daddy’s, Boston Market, Taverna Agora – have recently closed or announced plans to move.

Meanwhile, the area is surrounded by older residential neighborhoods where homeowners would prefer eateries and shops to car lot and furniture warehouses. Lasso said he worries the strip could start to look like Capital Boulevard without careful planning.

“It’s not consistent with what the vision is for Raleigh,” he said.

Two council members – Russ Stephenson and Mayor Nancy McFarlane – took the neighborhood’s side and voted against Enterprise, saying they disagree that the requirements were met. McFarlane said she’s concerned about light pollution from the lot affecting neighbors, and Stephenson voiced fears about stormwater runoff and noise from vacuum cleaners and pressure washers.

Lasso said the neighbors are mulling whether to appeal the council decision, which would then land the issue in court. “I don’t think the folks are ready to lie down and roll over,” he said.