Council approves Lewis Ford appeal for dealership in west Fayetteville

Lewis Automotive on College Avenue / Staff photo

Lewis Automotive has cleared a major hurdle in the dealership’s plan to move from North College Avenue to west Fayetteville.

City Council members on Tuesday approved an appeal of a previously denied request from the dealership’s owners to rezone 5 acres on Deane Solomon Road from a residential district to a commercial district.

The Planning Commission last month denied the proposal, but the Lewis brothers appealed that decision to the City Council.

Matt Lewis, vice president of the company, said the plan is to relocate the dealership from its current location on North College partially onto the Deane Solomon property, but also onto some adjoining land he and his brothers have recently purchased that has frontage along Shiloh Drive next to Interstate 49.

Lewis said the dealership is landlocked on College Avenue and there’s simply no room to grow.

“We are out of land,” he said. “Our business goes curb to curb, so we have to move in order to keep up with the growth and the demand in Fayetteville.”

City planners also recommended denial of the request, as the city’s long-term planning goals typically advise against rezoning property to the outdated C-2 Thoroughfare Commercial district that the Lewis brothers requested. Planners instead tend to favor form-based districts, which encourage walkability by putting parking lots behind the buildings instead of along the roadway.

Process Dynamics on Deane Solomon Road / Photo: Todd Gill, Fayetteville Flyer

The property on Deane Solomon sits at the corner of Moore Lane, and is currently the site of Process Dynamics. It is largely undeveloped with the exception of a roughly 7,700-square-foot office building and a cell tower.

Suzanne Clark, an attorney representing the company, said she knew that getting approval for a non-form-based district would be difficult, but she’s hoping for an exception since the majority of the property the new dealership would be built upon is already zoned as C-2.

Plus, she said, the property is just down the street from the Adventure Subaru dealership, and about a third of a mile from Crain Hyundai. A Kia dealership is also planned nearby, she said.

The first meeting

The council first heard the appeal on Dec. 7.

At the time, Council Member Holly Hertzberg said she’s inclined to vote in favor of the request. She said she’d talked to the brothers who said they’d be willing to do some landscaping and lighting that could alleviate some of the concerns about the land being near residential properties.

Council Member Mark Kinion said he likes that idea, but told the council it’s more of a practical decision to him.

“I know the future plans state that it would be nice if the area were residential, but it’s not,” said Kinion. “It’s an auto park area.”

Council Member Sarah Bunch said she has no reason to believe that the Lewis Brothers would build anything other than a dealership, but she would feel more comfortable if some more formal type of guarantee were in place, including some of the landscaping ideas Hertzberg mentioned.

The second meeting

The council held the request at the Dec. 7 meeting, and when the discussion continued on Tuesday, Clark offered an official Bill of Assurance that includes a guarantee that the property will only be used for a car dealership.

The Bill of Assurance also promises that the landscape buffer along Deane Solomon Road will be increased from 15 to 20 feet, and the tree density along Moore Lane will be doubled with trees planted every 15 feet instead of every 30 feet. Standard 3-gallon planter pots would also be increased to 5 gallons, she said.

Another provision in the Bill of Assurance states that the lighting in those areas will include fixtures that have 0% uplight, and in the areas facing the residential homes, the fixtures will have a guaranteed light bleed of less than 1%.

Clark said for what it’s worth, the Lewis brothers have already begun the process to rezone 7 acres of the property they’re vacating on College Avenue from C-2 to the form-based UT-Urban Thoroughfare district since that is more compatible with what planners envision for College Avenue.

Turk said she appreciates the applicant working with the council to accommodate some of the concerns.

The council voted 7-0 to approve the appeal and rezone the property. Matthew Petty’s vacant Ward 2 seat won’t be filled until after the Feb. 8 special election.