by Aaron Burns

HUNTERSVILLE – Huntersville Plaza will soon have an automotive service and repair center on its property off Old Statesville Road, pending the results of the town’s Jan. 7 board meeting.

Christian Brothers Automotive, which has automotive center franchises in 25 states, would operate the 5,000 square-foot facility at 16626 Old Statesville Road.

The town’s original Huntersville Plaza rezoning plan didn’t allow for the development of an automotive center. The land that would house the center is vacant.

No one spoke out during the board’s Dec. 3 public hearing for the proposed 2.54-acre automotive center, a departure from previous scenarios when automotive centers were considered.

The reason for no negative feedback this time around, Town Manager Greg Ferguson said, comes from the business’ efforts to keep the area’s aesthetics from taking a hit – and the fact the center wouldn’t be in a residential community.

Automotive centers could have damaged cars around their property, which residents in the past, Ferguson said, believed have a negative effect on the look of the area, especially near residential areas.

“This is not the case in this project,” Ferguson said.

Senior Planner Brad Priest agreed.

“Greg is correct about the concern in residential areas; that has been an issue in the past, but not so much with this (proposed facility),” he said. “(The town planning staff) is working with this site in regard to screening the parking area and bay doors from Old Statesville Road.”

“The building that we are planning will not look much different that a traditional retail building,” J. Andrew Rowe, founder of Clear Water Development Partners, said.

“Further, the use is for automotive service. This is not an automotive (site) that will be storing cars on site because they are performing predominately heavy auto repairs. We would like to see a good viable tenant end up on the site, and we believe we have one in Christian Brothers.”

Town Planning Board Chairman Bruce Andersen favors the proposal, but has concerns about noise.

“(It) looks OK,” he said. “(The) only negative is the view of the bay doors until a future building is constructed. The developers plan to add a second building to cover up the bay doors, which will really help with the view from the street.”

Rowe, who would handle the facility’s development, hasn’t given a timetable for when the additional building – the use of which is also a question – would be built.

“We’re willing to put up temporary landscaping that would screen northbound traffic from the automotive base,” Rowe said.

Andersen said the temporary landscaping would be a plus for the area’s aesthetics.

Priest said the automotive center could begin construction as early as summer 2013, pending the town board’s approval. Rowe said it could be completed in fall 2013.

Andersen explained his concerns with noise by asking if Christian Brothers would keep air compressors inside and if they would use loudspeakers.

“The biggest thing, when they’ve got the (aesthetics) taken care of, is that there wouldn’t be too much noise,” he said.

Local residents’ primary issue, he added, is the presence of a median already in the road in front of the property. But Andersen doesn’t expect a major increase in traffic flow if the automotive center’s proposal is accepted and construction begins.

“It’s not a big traffic generator,” he said. “But, I don’t know how many more auto centers we’d need after this. We’ve got a fair amount of them already, and I’d like to think peoples’ cars don’t break down as much now as they did in the past.”

Facts about Christian Brothers Automotive

• Offers services such as tire rotations, pre-purchase inspections, air conditioning, transmission and engine services, inspections and oil changes

• Plans to open four new automotive centers in Georgia, Nebraska and Oklahoma in 2013

• Includes 53 total franchise expansion markets in U.S.