The Fort Oglethorpe City Council has approved a zoning request for a new car wash to be developed next to the Walgreen's at Battlefield Parkway and Dietz Road.
On Monday night, Feb. 12, Attorney Chad Young spoke to the council on behalf of Community National Bank and East Haven Partners regarding a stretch of land along Battlefield Parkway.
Community National Bank requested a C-1 special exception to build a car wash on the property, which is a stipulation in the agreement for purchase.
"The tract goes along Walgreen's at Battlefield Parkway and Dietz Road," Young explained. "The tract is a approximately 4.5 acres in size and has been owned by CNB since 2009 when they foreclosed on the property. The land has sat undeveloped and vacant since that time. The bank has spent roughly $200,000 in carrying costs trying to sell that property to commercial developers. Unfortunately for them, the prior owner, when he sold to Walgreen's, agreed to a lot of use restrictions that really limited what could go in the property."
Young says the property has been under contract several times, but that each time, the developers have backed out because the restrictions just wouldn't allow them to use the property for what they've proposed.
East Haven Partners' proposal includes acquiring 2.88 acres of the tract, with a remaining option on the other 1.6 acres.
"What they are proposing to the council is to subdivide the 2.88 into two tracts; one is an acre and a quarter, and one is 1.65 acres," Young explained. "On the 1.23 acre tract, they propose to build the car wash."
The group produced site plans that are similar to a car wash they already have approved for construction on Broad Street in Chattanooga, Tenn.
"The color scheme and brick color would coincide with the Walgreen's that's there on the property," Young said. "The capital investment proposed for just this phase of the development is $1 million for the land, $900,000 for the equipment, and another $950,000 for the building. That's just to get the car wash built and the land acquired."
The projected annual revenues based on the site study are $1.5 million, which is a big jump from the roughly $3,600 in property tax revenue the land currently brings in.
Young says the business would have between 8-12 full and part-time employees including management.
"The plan for this developer is for the car wash to take advantage of the traffic that's already there, and draw traffic into the site the way an anchor tenant would a shopping center," Young said. "This particular car wash will be built with a 90-percent reclamation water system, so all of the products and the water will be recycled into tanks.
Young says the facility would use approximately 2,200 gallons of water per day, or 60 gallons per car.
"The site could have minimal impact on your sewer," Young said. "There will be 20,000 gallons of underground treatment and storage available, so if you have a heavy rain day when you're not washing a lot of cars, a lot of this water that is recycled will be stored on the site, so there may be some days that all the water provided comes from storage tanks and doesn't even impact the city's water or sewer."
Young added that the facility would always have attendants on duty during operating hours, and would not be an open-bay car wash were people can pull in and wash their own vehicles.
"The developer has done their due diligence and feels like this is a good place and a good market for this car wash," Young said. "They feel like it's environmentally friendly, will have a low impact on your (the city's) infrastructure, and it's really going to capture the traffic that's already there at that intersection. In fact, because it's on the fringe of the city limit, it's probably going to draw traffic in from the unincorporated areas of the county to this site to spend revenue in the city."
The request was met with opposition from Mike Burwell, who has owned and operated Pal's Car Wash down the street on Battlefield Parkway for over a decade.
"We've been in business for a little over 12 years," Burwell said. "It was drug invested, rat invested, the whole nine yards...we took the shell and increased it."
Burwell says his business is lucky to average 150 cars per day, with the exception of higher numbers on weekends. He says weather is also an issue, like the rain on Monday, which resulted in them doing only 65 cars.
"There's no way you can put another car wash within a three-mile radius of where we're at, and not impact us," Burwell said. "If you're going to move in another car wash, let's say two-miles down the road, it's definitely going to take pretty close to half of our express car washes.
Burwell insisted that building a car wash so close to his would be similar to gas wars that sometimes exist between gas stations.
"Remember the gas wars on opposite corners," Burwell asked. "Eventually, one of those gas stations goes out of business. Only one person's going to win. I can't see where putting another car was in Fort Oglethorpe is going to be a helpful thing for the community itself. It would be a little different if I didn't employ 40 people, plus an assistant manager and a general manager."
After the discussion, the request was approved by a 3-2 vote, with Jim Childs and Rhonda James voting no.