RPB Zoners Reject Site Plan And Waivers For CarMax Expansion

CarMax is the nation’s largest used car dealership, with 240 locations across the nation. In Royal Palm Beach, the CarMax location at 10501 Southern Blvd. is having some growing pains after an effort to expand the facility’s staging area and add an auction building were rejected by the Royal Palm Beach Planning & Zoning Commission on Monday, Aug. 14.

There were two items on the agenda related to the CarMax expansion — two important landscape waivers and a site plan modification. Both were rejected on 3-2 votes after extensive presentations by village staff and CarMax representatives.

The landscape waivers were bundled into one application. Instead of single and double terminal islands with trees planted in the large parking lot used as a staging area, CarMax representatives proposed putting the trees elsewhere on the property.

“It actually results in more landscaping. It’s about 3,500 square feet of additional landscaping that we’re providing through this site,” said attorney Christina Bilenki of the land planning firm Dunay, Miskel and Backman, representing CarMax. “Other dealerships are providing wire fencing, some shrubs, maybe the odd tree — you can look right in there and see a parking lot. We’re not trying to skirt the landscaping requirements here. We are trying to make it really attractive, as well as meet the operational needs of CarMax.”

The proposal includes 421 trees instead of the 160 required by village code, but many of those are planted due to previous mitigation requirements.

“Staff is not in support of this waiver request because we believe there are multiple other car dealerships with similar circumstances that have provided these landscape terminal islands,” said Josue Leger, a senior planner for the village.

Leger went on to explain that the code does not distinguish between patrons and staff, so even though presenters insisted the area would only be accessed by trained CarMax staff, the lack of striping and islands presented a safety hazard for operating vehicles.

A motion to deny the landscape waivers passed 3-2. Vice Chair Philip Marquis, Commissioner David Leland and Alternate Kamar Williams voted to deny the request, while Alternate Kara Dery and Commissioner Lauren McClellan supported the waivers. Dery stated her belief that this situation posed an undue hardship on the operation but did not sway the others.

The site plan modification and architectural approval for CarMax’s second phase of development for the site was contingent upon support for the waivers, so the request to allow construction of an auction building was also denied by a vote of 3-2, with the panel voting the same as before.

“My suggestion would be that you work these differences out with staff, because the biggest issue here, again with me, is that we do not want concrete jungles,” Leland said. “Just because you have a junkyard and you put a big fence around it, it still makes it a junkyard. So, I think that’s a bigger concern of the commissioners.”

The team working with CarMax said they will look into other options for making the staging area safer, such as striping or differentiating materials (i.e. asphalt and concrete) for the surface to better delineate rights of way.