The Millville Town Council, at its Tuesday, July 9 meeting, approved a conditional-use application for a car wash next to the Dollar General store on Route 26.
The application, submitted by LandTech LLC on behalf of JIIS Management LLC, for a business to be named Beaches Car Wash, was approved 5-0 following a public hearing that was packed with residents, many of whom live in the neighboring Denton Mills subdivision and who expressed concerns about the impact of the business on their homes.
The applicant’s presentation during the hearing covered much the same information presented weeks earlier at a Planning & Zoning Commission hearing. Following that hearing, residents complained that — despite a statement from Dennis Schrader, attorney for the applicant, that nearby residents had been informed about the meeting — they had not been so informed.
Town attorney Seth Thompson and Town Manager Debbie Botchie said during the council meeting this week that the Town had followed all existing town regulations regarding public notification of the planning commission meeting and its agenda.
“No one in Denton Mills wants it,” said Denton Mills Homeowners Association President Mark Wright. He also said he “can’t imagine it will make money” since there are two other car washes nearby.
Wright supported the addition of a condition that the business construct a fence along its border with Denton Mills, in addition to a 40-foot buffer of trees that already exists.
Mark Olajos, also a Warren Road resident, asked the council for more “data gathering” regarding the car wash’s potential impact on the community.
“You have no concrete numbers for it to say that, yes, it’s going to work,” Olajos said.
Another Millville resident, Don Ludwig, said he supports the new car wash.
“It’s a great community venture for our town,” he said.
The business’ owner, Imoh Matthews of Frankford, did not speak at the hearing and declined to comment after his application was approved. But the former manager for Chimes, an organization that employees disabled workers in many airports and public spaces across the country, plans a work force for the car wash that will be largely made up of disabled people, including veterans.
The former president of Chimes, Martin Lampner, did speak on behalf of Matthews’ application, reiterating what he said at the Planning & Zoning hearing in June.
He said the business, which will have about 14 employees, addresses a need in the community for jobs for disabled people.
“They are your neighbor’s children,” Lampner said. “They are your children.”
Spokespeople for the project had said in the past that employees would not drive to work but would likely come on DART buses because of their disabilities, so the facility would not require many employee parking spots.
In their comments before voting on the car wash application, some council members expressed mixed feelings about it. Council Member Ronald Belinko said he is in favor of the owner’s plans to hire disabled workers, and views the use of the property as “the lesser of two evils” and less intrusive than potential uses already allowed in the commercial district, such as fast-food restaurants or grocery stores.
Council Member Sharon Brienza agreed.
Deputy Mayor Steve Maneri said “the building looks beautiful” and that he feels confident the site will be kept clean. “We will make sure of that.”
Maneri also said the “pervious surface” on the lot needs to be monitored to make sure it allows for proper drainage of the site.
Mayor Robert Gordon shared the concerns of residents who worry about the impact of increased traffic from the car wash, which will share the existing entrance of the Dollar General store. Both the Dollar General and now the car wash will contribute to the cost of a future traffic light, although there are no current plans to construct one there.
Theaters will still require conditional-use approval
In other business on July 9, the council voted 5-0 to leave “performing arts theater” as a conditional use in the town’s commercial district. Richard Bloch, owner of the 10-year-old Dickens Parlour Theatre on Route 26, had previously asked the council to consider making theaters a permitted use by right under Millville’s zoning code.
The council also heard a report from Millville Volunteer Fire Company’s EMS chief, John Watson, on the company’s ambulance service. Watson told the council that the ambulance service had responded to 1,405 calls so far this year, up 105 from last year.
He said the fire company is in the process of evaluating how the new Beebe Medical Center South Coastal Campus will impact the ambulance service when its emergency department is completed.
Watson also told the council that the company collects about half of its $1.3 million annual budget through subscriptions, which cost $35 per household. Brienza, who moved to Millville from New Jersey, said she would gladly donate more to the fire company, as she had in New Jersey.
Council Member Ronald Belinko, agreed, saying, “$35 is a bargain.”
The council on Tuesday also unanimously approved a final site plan for an office, sales center and model home for the Kercher Group, on behalf of Bay to Beach Builders.
By Kerin Magill