By ABBEY KUNKLE
Special to the PRESS
The South Padre Island Development Standards Review Task Force (DSRTF) met last week to discuss development related to the Isle Wash car wash at 4609 Padre Boulevard.
Car wash owners, Dr. Gerald and Susan Sher, currently own and operate the building which is non-conforming under the current Form-Based Code, as auto-related sales or service establishments are not currently allowed within the Town Center Crossing Character Zone. However, their business was grandfathered in, allowing the non-conformity, because it was in operation before the establishment of the Form-Based Code.
Recently, the owners wanted to expand their business with updated automatic wash systems and the addition of a mechanic shop behind the car wash facility. Development Director Dr. Sungman Kim and City staff determined the best way to allow this and to bring the business into conformity would be to amend text within Table 5.1 and 5.2 of the Form-Based Code allowing auto-related sales or service establishments within the Town Center Crossing Zone rather than just allowing for a variance to the code.
The proposed amendment addressed the design criteria and noted that it must conform to the theme of the code using earth tones to mitigate any negative impact the business might have on residential areas. In addition, the mechanic shop service view must be oriented away from street view and adjacent sides, and if necessary, must be screened with landscaping or other measures. Any automatic car washes will be required to have sound attenuation devices to minimize noise. Finally, according to the proposed amendments, all equipment shall be contained within the building and full service car washes shall provide shaded plazas or indoor waiting areas for customers.
DSRTF members agreed with the recommendations, but decided to be even more detailed in regards to design criteria. Task Force member Joe Logan pointed out that the Town Center Crossing Zone was designed to be one of the most attractive areas and established as a center, and he argued that many mechanic shops did not fit that theme. Members felt the design criteria would be extremely important to move forward and suggested that entrances to the mechanic shop be in the back of the building along with excess parking. They also agreed that any screening or fencing should be tall enough to completely hide any cars that were being worked on and that the shop should be nicely paved and well lit in the evenings with all equipment stored inside the building so as not to affect the integrity of the block in any way. Members agreed to proceed with the proposed amendments.
Although the DSRTF approved the amendments, the SPI Planning and Zoning committee disagreed with staff’s recommendation at their Thursday meeting. Members felt that a mechanic shop would not fit the long term theme of a civic area in the Town Center Crossing Zone. After hearing arguments for the side of the business owner, others argued that the Form Based Code was established for a reason, and that if the City continues to allow these changes, the town will never reach the long term goal that was developed at the cost of almost half a million dollars. In addition, Councilman Sam Listi argued that business owners had two years to give ample input during the development of the code.
The issue will go to the City Council for either approval or denial.
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