Van Horn plan good start, more detail needed

THE PLAN COMMISSION GOT a first look last week at preliminary plans for a major commercial development on Eastern Avenue.

The commission reviewed plans by the Van Horn Automotive Group to create a truck center on the south side of Eastern, across the street from their current Chevrolet and Dodge dealerships.

The plans were preliminary, but officials from Van Horn were seeking a sense of the commission’s feelings before proceeding with final planning for their estimated $2 million to $2.5 million project.

The commission gave a tentative nod of approval – which is still no guarantee of final approval – after raising a number of concerns.

Chief among those was the number of driveway entrances to Eastern Avenue that Van Horn originally showed. With two lots flanking the existing Advanced Auto Parts and Sun Graphics/Huberty and Associates buildings, the auto dealership was showing two driveways in the east lot and one in the west lot.

Planners were naturally concerned about adding that much ingress and egress traffic to the already-busy Eastern Avenue corridor, and the Van Horn representatives agreed that one driveway in each lot would be a better alternative, with right-turn only exit restrictions on both.

Still left unresolved are major questions such as drainage, landscaping, lighting, signage and more. Those details will be covered in the final plan when that comes before the commission for final approval.

But the plan thus far seems a positive improvement for that section of Eastern Avenue.

It includes removing one questionable structure and the remodeling of the former Habitat for

Humanity ReStore building into the truck center headquarters building.

Any development in this part of the Eastern Avenue corridor will obviously be commercial in nature and this piece would be the final development along the south side of Eastern Avenue between Pleasantview Drive and State 57 – the last piece of the puzzle, as it were.

It is probably a better puzzle piece than other possible developments. It should generate less traffic than, say, another fastfood restaurant or a retail store, and will match what is already across the road.

Van Horn officials intimated that they may, at some future point, bring forth plans for residential development of property to the south of the proposed truck center.

That led to another concern, raised by Mayor Donald Pohlman and others on the commission, over providing access to that landlocked parcel, via either a dedicated private drive or a public street.

The Van Horn representatives tried to downplay that issue, saying development of that lot is not on the front burner right now. But it is an important issue for the Plan Commission, and one that should be addressed as part of the final plans for the truck center.

It is the job and the charge of the Plan Commission to consider the long-term impact of any development they approve and to guarantee that, as the mayor put it, they don’t do “something today to make a problem worse tomorrow.”

That’s only wise planning.

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