Al Packer Ford West, located at 10601 Southern Blvd., is planning a number of upgrades to its facility, and the Royal Palm Beach Planning & Zoning Commission discussed several items related to the project at a meeting Tuesday, March 24.
While the commissioners were generally supportive of the overall project, they did not agree with all of the requested variances.
The dealership presented a multi-part application requesting variances to the parking code, to only have to provide parking for enclosed and covered areas in the dealership and not for the outdoor service area; to include more than 10 percent of the total parking in the rear of the facility; and to not have a sidewalk connecting the rear parking area to the front, public entrance of the building.
Chairman Richard Becher decided that the commission should address each section individually.
Based on current code, Development Review Coordinator Kevin Erwin explained, the outdoor service storage area requires 21 parking spaces. The applicant did not want to provide those spaces for the outdoor service storage area, which is counted the same as enclosed and covered areas of the dealership under the village’s code.
“We are requesting not to provide it in that area because we feel, at the end of the day, that area does not generate additional parking demand,” said land planner Michael Sanchez, representing the dealership. “We’re already providing parking for the enclosed space, and there’s nothing taking place in that outside storage area that’s going to bring more cars and require more parking at the site.”
Commissioner Felicia Matula made a motion to approve the variance request, which passed, 4-1, with Commissioner Jackie Larson dissenting.
Village staff supported the next part of the request, allowing more than 10 percent of the parking in the rear due to the location of the building and the nature of the business. Sanchez said that there would be 65 percent of the parking in the rear, which allows for 41 parking spaces in the front of the building. Commissioner Michael Axelberd made a motion to accept that variance, which was approved 5-0.
Village staff recommended denial of the third variance, regarding a sidewalk connecting the rear parking to the front of the building.
The village, from a health and safety standpoint, did not recommend approval on that variance, explained Village Attorney Jennifer Ashton, noting that though the variances are separated, they are related.
The layout of the parking requires that employees would park in the rear, walk through a building, and then enter the main building on the property.
“They’re asking to allow the provision of parking in the rear of the building without providing the rear required 6-foot-wide sidewalk leading to the front of the building,” Erwin said.
The applicant contends that only employees will be entering and using the rear, Erwin said. However, village code does not differentiate between parking for employees and customers.
“We see this as a pretty straightforward request,” Sanchez said. “We don’t have any customer parking in the rear. We have 41 parking spaces in the front for customers; that’s double what we have in there today. We’re only increasing the facility by 6,700 square feet.”
Sanchez explained that many changes have been made to accommodate village requirements, and that when Al Packer Ford West went to expand the building and renovate, there wasn’t an expectation that things such as landscaping and parking were not up to the current code. As a result, with a great deal of assistance from the village, they have worked to meet the current code.
Matula asked about the Americans with Disabilities Act regulations.
“They don’t show any handicapped-accessible spaces in the rear, and they may have to do this as well,” Erwin said.
Sanchez said that according to ADA rules, ADA spaces need to be in close proximity to the building.
“We’ve gone to great lengths to make sure that we are ADA-compliant on this project. We wouldn’t get a building permit if not,” he said.
The ADA requirements are met for the front building, Sanchez said, explaining that those parking spaces are not needed for the rear.
The code doesn’t differentiate between parking for the public and employees, Larson said, noting that she sympathized with the plight of the applicant, but saw it as being in direct conflict with the code.
Vice Chair Joseph Boyle agreed.
“I looked at this, and I looked at the code, and I understand where you’re coming from, but what it really is, is the code is requiring access to the front, and not to the front of this building, but to the front of the entire location,” Boyle said. “Cutting through another building being the access method, to me, doesn’t seem to be what the intent was to the ordinance that we have.”
While he sympathized with the dealership, he did not support the variance.
“Even though 99 percent of the people may be employees, taking the sidewalk through the first one, the code doesn’t differentiate, and I don’t think we can differentiate, either,” he said.
Boyle made a motion to deny that variance, which carried 5-0.
In another item, Al Packer Ford West asked for a variance of a reduced side setback of 28.8 feet from the code requirement of 50 feet. The building in question, Erwin explained, is an existing building.
“The building in question is the body shop,” he said. “It is an existing building. It was existing on the site in 1987 when the village annexed this section of property. The applicant intends to keep the building as it is. It currently enjoys a legal nonconforming status based on the fact that it is an existing building. Village code requires 50 feet. You can’t modify a legal nonconforming building, so if he ever wanted to do a small addition or anything, he would not be permitted to do so as it stands today, so he is seeking a variance to rectify that so it becomes a legal conforming building with the granting of the variance.”
Boyle made a motion to approve that variance, which passed 5-0.
The final application by Al Packer Ford West was for the overall project, requesting major site plan modifications, a special exception use and architectural approval for the expansion of the facility.
“The application includes an increase to the existing building square footage, the construction of a new building, architectural changes to the existing building and various other site and landscape changes,” Erwin said. “The applicant is also requesting a special exception use approval for an automobile or watercraft repair and/or service use, which is listed as special exception use within the general commercial zoning district. The applicant is also seeking architectural approval for the building elevations, colors and materials, as well as the landscape plan.”
Larson expressed concerns regarding hazardous waste and hazardous material storage and disposal. “Our job is to protect the stormwater integrity of the village,” she said, explaining the importance of a trench drain.
Becher offered well wishes to the applicant. “Personally, I think this is going to look real nice, and I have to go along with the other commissioners. It has been obviously a long time coming. I hope things are done well for your dealership, and it will be nice seeing it on Southern,” he said.
Larson made a motion to approve the application, with the conditions of approval as outlined, with an additional condition of approval for the applicant to install hazardous material storage and hazardous waste storage and disposal facilities in Building G in compliance with state regulations.
The application passed unanimously.