By Mark Esper
The proposed resurrection of the “historic” car wash in Silverton met with unanimous approval from the Town Council on Monday, putting San Juan County’s status as perhaps the only county in the nation without such an institution in serious jeopardy.
John and Beth Demaree of Jamestown, Ind., part-time Silverton residents, are in the process of restoring the old car wash at 129 E. Ninth St.
But since the facility has not been operated since at least the latter part of the last millennium, the zoning for the facility has long-since reverted to residential.
That ended Monday night when the Town Council voted to change the zoning for the building itself to Business-Pedestrian Limited.
The change stipulated that the building could be used only as a car wash and that nocturnal washing would be prohibited, with hours limited to 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
No wash or wastewater would be allowed to drain on the surface from the property.
Town Planner Adam Sickmiller said the owners plan to operate one bay and not allow RVs to be hosed down.
Phil Dodd, who lives directly north of the proposed automotive bathing facility, wrote in a letter to town officials that “as the contiguous property owner, I strongly recommend Kim and Beth be allowed to revive this ‘historic’ car wash!
“They do things right and will be good operators,” Dodd wrote. “We need to help business in Silverton.”
But other property owners living near the “historic” establishment said reviving the dormant facility would have a negative impact on the neighborhood.
Greene Street resident Jim Weller said “if you want a commercial property you should pay for a commercial property and not bring it in to someone else’s neighborhood.”
Empire Street residents Donald and Charlene Mantay warned of “frequent industrial noise” and “increased vehicular traffic flow.”
Another Empire Street resident, Warren Schneider, expressed concern that the car wash could lead to “erosion of the quality of the neighborhood and reduce the value of our property.”
The Planning Commission had earlier recommended the zoning change in a 4-2 vote.
Mayor Terry Kerwin said Monday that he has a “hard time” believing traffic generated by the one-bay car wash will be a significant hardship for neighbors.
“I’d be amazed if traffic became a problem,” Kerwin said.
Mayor Pro-Tem Brison Gooch said he has heard concerns that the town’s sewers could face problems handling grease and other discharges from the car wash, but town officials said a separator system to keep grease, oil and solids out of the sewers is required.
Gooch said he thinks the town could use a car wash again.
“It was really very nice to be able to get a car washed,” he said, recalling the latter part of the 20th century. “There were no problems when it operated before.”
Trustee Jim Lindaman, noting the car wash is on an unpaved street, said “those using the car wash will want to get right back on Greene Street as soon as possible,” thus mitigating any possible traffic congestion near the facility.
Trustee Pat Swonger said a car wash is “a pretty basic service” for the town. And he said he takes zoning changes very seriously.
“It’s not an easy thing to make these changes in zoning, I’m really sensitive to that,” Swonger said.