South Haven car dealership may expand, but with stipulations | Local News
It looks like a longtime South Haven used-car dealership won’t be expanding its land the way it planned.
Jerry Beckwith, owner of Countryside Motors, had hoped to use two additional lots south of his location at 318 Blue Star Highway, to display additional inventory. However, city officials decided earlier this month that unless the parking lot provides drainage for one of the lots at the corner of Blue Star and Superior streets, it will not be able to proceed as foreseen.
“I’m going to give that up,” Beckwith said after the Feb. 3 Planning Commission meeting.
Beckwith said the costs associated with improving the property would be prohibitive for him.
However, he will still use the leased property at 412 Blue Star Highway, just south of his current lot to display his inventory — which consists mostly of pickup trucks.
To do this, planners said he needed to install a fence to protect property from neighboring residences and stabilize the edge of an area he backfilled last summer.
The question of whether Countryside Motors could expand to two more properties came to the fore when neighbors on Jones Street told town officials they were concerned any improvements to the lots could cause their rear to flood. -court.
The two properties in question are a little taller than the residences behind them on Jones Street. A city-owned ditch and storm sewer separates commercial properties along Blue Star from residential properties on the east side of Jones Street. However, locals said flooding still occurs after bouts of rain.
When city officials investigated the matter, they discovered that both properties were located in zoning district B-2, which requires special land permit approval for car dealerships. Beckwith said he was unaware of the zoning.
City officials informed him that although his dealership had been protected by new zoning requirements, the 412 and 460 Blue Star Highway properties had not.
The possibility of flooding due to Countryside Motors’ decision to add fill to the back of Plot 412 last summer seemed to be the biggest problem for neighbors.
City Engineer Mike Dopp met with Beckwith and examined both properties and determined that a ditch behind Highway 412 Blue Star and a storm pipe leading to Jones Street provide drainage. However, they had not been maintained.
“The ditch should be cleaned by the city and the storm drain should be inspected by city staff and repaired as needed,” Dopp wrote in a report to the planning commission. “This may require replacing the existing pipe if it is found to be in an irreparable condition.”
Regarding the area of the property at 412 Blue Star Highway, city officials found that Beckwith should have received a permit from Van Buren County to determine if he could do so.
As a condition of approving the special land use permit for the parking lot at 412 Blue Star, planners also stipulated that the city must know if Beckwith had obtained the permit to do so. However, Dopp pointed out that the city has no jurisdiction over the earth-moving activities that took place at the site last summer — as the county does. He also said that the backfilled area does not appear to have increased drainage in the ditch.
“Staff have verified that this additional amount of surface runoff should not negatively affect the area as long as this ditch is maintained and the storm pipe is functional,” Dopp said.