Planners give tentative nod to Van Horn truck center

by Emmitt B. Feldner of The Review staff

PLYMOUTH – Van Horn Automotive is looking to expand across Eastern Avenue and got a tentative nod of approval from the Plan Commission.

Officials from the automotive group appeared before the commission Thursday to outline preliminary plans for a truck center on the south side of Eastern Avenue opposite their current Dodge and Chevrolet dealerships.

Van Horn was seeking an indication from the commission on whether a final plan might prove acceptable.

Attorney Basil Buchko, general counsel for the Van Horn Automotive Group, told the commissioners the group was looking for consensual approval before proceeding with final engineering and plans.

“Van Horn wants to establish a separate truck center,” Buchko explained. “We’re looking at this as a global development. We estimate we will spend maybe $2 million to $2.5 million in development.”

The planned truck center would utilize the former ReStore Habitat for Humanity store building, which Van Horn has purchased, along with that property and one to the west between Advance Auto Parks and the Fairfield Shopping Center.

“What we would like to do is to reside and reface the entire ReStore building (while) the other building on the east side of that property would be razed entirely, Buchko told the commission.

The restored building would become the headquarters building for the center, surrounded by a display lot for trucks, with another display lot and a sign constructed on the separate lot to the west.

Director of Public Works Bill Immich emphasized that what was being presented was only a concept plan. Final plans would have to include water drainage – including a stormwater retention pond at some location on the property – landscaping, lighting and more.

“The question is are you willing to go along with this project,” Immich told the commissioners. “The key point is access.”

That was an issue raised by several members of the commission, who objected to the proposal for two driveways on the east lot.

Buchko noted that easements planned for a possible frontage road to serve the two existing commercial buildings on the south side of Eastern Avenue along with Van Horn’s two lots had earlier been abandoned, meaning Van Horn would need driveway access for the proposed truck lots.

“There isn’t anyone else who could come along and ask you for access to Eastern Avenue,” in this area, he added.

Dick Strong, president of Van Horn Automotive, said re-creating the frontage road would cost them 60-70 parking spots for vehicle display in the proposed truck center. “We can’t give up (those) display spots or this doesn’t make sense.”

“We sell cars and we want to put as much inventory on there as possible,” Buchko added.

When commission members continued to express concern about traffic entering and exiting Eastern from that many driveways,

Van Horn officials agreed they could reduce the proposal to one driveway on each of the two lots and also limit traffic leaving the lots to right turns onto Eastern Avenue only.

“Most likely anybody who would develop would ask for driveway access,” onto Eastern, City Administrator Brian Yerges said of the property.

Buchko said that Van Horn also owns property to the south of the two parcels on Eastern and may look into a future residential development in that area.

That led Mayor Donald Pohlman to question how access would be provided to that area if it develops. “Part of the big answer needs to be how access gets there. Creating something today to make a problem worse tomorrow isn’t in anyone’s best interest.”

“That project is not the most important one in our wheelhouse right now,” Strong responded.

The commission voted 5-1 to give preliminary approval to the Van Horn truck center plans, with commission member Jim Flanagan opposed.

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