The Royal Palm Beach Village Council approved several variances last week for Al Packer Ford West on Southern Blvd. The dealership is undergoing a major renovation and expansion project.
At the April 16 meeting, Al Packer Ford West received approval to add employee parking at the back of its building without a sidewalk leading to the front because they would be using a rear entrance, several variances for signs, a reduced setback for an existing building, landscape changes and a special exception to allow an expansion of the existing building.
Planning & Zoning Director Bradford O’Brien said that the dealership was annexed into the village in 1991 and has received several approvals since then, including in 2002, when it was granted a variance to allow a temporary rear sales yard after the Florida Department of Transportation took land in the front of the site to expand Southern Blvd.
Another approval was for a proposed site plan to remove the temporary sales yard and old buildings in order to construct a showroom and body shop for a total of 52,930 square feet. The temporary sales yard was never removed, and the new buildings were never constructed, O’Brien said.
The first variance asked for deviations from village parking requirements to allow the proposed expansion of the vehicle sales and service operation. They included a request to allow 65 percent of the parking in the rear to be used by employees due to the buildings’ proximity to Southern Blvd.
Village code allows only 10 percent of parking to the rear, but village staff felt that the nature of the use, with the need to display inventory in the front, and the proximity to the road, warranted the variance. Councilman Dave Swift made a motion to approve the request, which carried 5-0.
The second request was to eliminate a sidewalk from the rear of the building, since employees would be using a rear entrance into the service area. Village staff did not recommend approval since village code does not distinguish between employee and customer parking.
Mike Sanchez, representing the dealership, said it currently has 15 customer parking spaces at the front of the building and is asking to expand to 40 in the front. Customers would have no need to park in the rear and would be directed to park in front. He added that customer counts had found 17 at the most at any given time.
“We feel we far exceed the demand for customer parking in the front, and providing a sidewalk from the rear, given the existing conditions, we would have to make substantial modifications,” Sanchez said.
Swift made a motion to approve the variance, which carried 5-0.
The council also granted several sign variances, including a 14-foot-wide by 9-foot-high monument sign, where the maximum allowable under the code is 7 feet high by 8 feet wide and 42 square feet in area, at least 10 feet from the property line.
“The applicant contends that this variance request is justified, given that the current sign exists on the site and has received variance for this sign, although it is in a different location on this site,” O’Brien said, adding that staff recommended denial of the request because the previous variance was in conjunction with building improvements that were never done.
Sanchez said they were only asking to relocate the existing sign to a more prominent location at the entrance to the dealership.
Vice Mayor Richard Valuntas said he understood and agreed with staff’s analysis, but was inclined to support the applicant’s request, since it did have the sign. Valuntas made a motion to approve the request, which carried 5-0.
The council also approved a request to allow two wall-mounted cabinet signs of 39.93 square feet on the south and east sides of the building, and another 27.25-square-foot cabinet sign on the south side, where village code prohibits cabinet signs in excess of 10 square feet.
The applicant thought the signs were in balance with the size of the building, but staff recommended denial because there were no special conditions or circumstances.
Sanchez pointed out that the signs are the oval Ford national logo and there were no classifications that it could fit under village code other than cabinet signs, and 10-square-foot logos would be much too small for the size of the building and not visible from the roadway.
Councilman Fred Pinto made a motion to approve the request, which carried 5-0.
The council also granted approval of a 28.8-foot corner-yard setback for an existing building instead of the 50 feet required by the code. Swift made a motion to approve that variance, which carried 5-0.