WILMINGTON, MA – On Wednesday night, the Wilmington Board of Appeals held a hearing on Nouria Energy’s request to acquire a special permit to operate a car wash at 220 Main Street.
Nouria Energy was represented by Attorney Donald Conn, Engineer Richard Williams, and employees Richard Smith and Ryan Roberts.
“We’re looking at the front portion of the property that was most recently a Sonic restaurant. It’s zoned General Business District,” began Conn.“The building size and footprint won’t be altered in any way. We don’t need any variances for dimensions, density or anything of that nature…. And this project will not impinge on The Learning Experience on the back portion of the lot.”
“It’s our contention that this proposed car wash use will be less odorous and burdensome than the prior restaurant use,” continued Conn.“This is an appropriate use and serves the public’s convenience.”
“We’ve already begun the site plan review process and had a meeting with the Planning Board last night,” added Conn. “Some traffic concerns relative to the intersection were raised at that time, so we’ve agreed to engage a consultant to complete a traffic study. We’ll be back in front of the Planning Board on September 11 and will have the study completed by then.”
Engineer Richard Williams briefly described changes that are proposed for the site.
“We’ll reconfigure the pervious area outside the right side of the building to add vacuum bays,” explained Williams.“The inside of the building will be completely renovated, with the floor being dropped down to allow for the equipment to be put in. We’ll provide more landscaping, so the site will have a little less pavement.”
“We’re adding an island between the car wash and the day care,” stressed Williams.“The island didn’t exist when Sonic was in business, so there will be a little more separation between the car wash use and daycare use. And there’s no proposed changes to the day care or its parking lot.”
Board of Appeals Chairman Dan Veerman told the applicants that his board would likely not entertain a vote on its permit request until the Planning Board’s site plan review process was complete. Conn hoped the review would be complete by the September 11 meeting, but could not guarantee it.
Concerns Over Proposal
“I’m really concerned about the circulation on this site,” said Board of Appeals member Tony Barletta. “From the beginning, it was a very restrictive site. I think the original proposal for Sonic was problematic, albeit it was approved. This proposal has other potential hazards.”
“You have two completely separate businesses that have overlapping traffic on this site…. I need to be convinced the flow out of the front of the car wash won’t be a hazard with parents driving around the corner with their kids,” said Barletta.“You’re introducing a negative congestive traffic point on the site. The cars coming out of the car wash will intersect that lane of traffic. It’s making the site worse.”
“The corner where the cars will take the left hand around the car wash is an issue. There needs to be some sort of development in that area,” added Barletta.“There’s no queuing space for cars that come out of the car wash to sit and rest without prohibiting a car from taking the corner around the building.”
The Nouria Energy representatives noted there are no services provided outside the exit of the car wash (e.g., towel drying, tire waxing, etc.). Vehicles are expected to exit the car wash and immediately proceed to a vacuum spot or to exit the site. Nevertheless, the project’s traffic consultant will look at queuing at the ext to make sure there’s no conflict. Representatives also stressed that the amount of traffic generated from the site will be less than the previous use, and the car wash’s peak time would not conflict with morning drop-off at the daycare.
Chairman Dan Veerman reminded his colleagues that a traffic study and site circulation study is being required by the Planning Board as part of site plan review.
“We’re anticipating what you’re seeing tonight is the final plan, but if the traffic consultant comes back and says you need to make a lane a two-way lane or you can’t have cars go behind the building, then we’ll do that,” assured a Nouria Energy rep.
Board of Appeals member Ray Lepore asked about Nouria Energy attaining an easement from Rite Aid or Market Basket so that traffic could exit out into their parking lots.
“The owners [of the Rite Aid property] wouldn’t give us an easement or enter into a contractual agreement,” responded Conn. “The [Market Basket plaza property owner] would only sell us an easement for several hundreds of thousands of dollars, which we weren’t interested in.”
Lepore and Barletta also expressed concern about vehicles exiting the car wash and tracking water into the Main Street intersection.
“On a real cold water, the water freezes to your car,” a Nouria Energy rep responded. “We operate 48 car washes in New England, and we’ve never had issues with water [from the car wash] creating freezing on the roadway.”
“I go to the other car wash on Main Street,” added Barletta.“There, wax can drip off cars and get into the roadway. It can very slippery… I’ve almost gotten into an accident coming out of there. It’s real.”
“Our tire shine machines are done inside the car wash. We don’t have a problem with the tire shine ever getting onto the pavement,” a Nouria Energy rep responded.
In response to a question from Board of Appeals member Tony Siracusa, Conn said that Nouria Energy has not current litigation or legal problems.
In response to a question from Board of Appeals member Jacquelyn Santini, a Nouria Energy rep said their closest car wash was in Boston, off of Mass Ave.
Selectman Mike McCoy was the only member of the public to speak. He said residents asked him to come and speak out against the proposal.
“This is a very dangerous intersection. On that roadway, an individual was killed crossing the street at the parcel next door,” said McCoy. “I heard this intersection was one of the top 200 dangerous intersections in the Commonwealth. There’s some serious flaws with the intersection.”
McCoy noted that according to the town’s zoning bylaws (section 3.8.6), car washes in the General Business District can’t generate noise that exceeds 55 decibel at the boundary of its parcel.
The Nouria Energy reps were not aware how loud – in decibel – their blowers are, but said the traffic noise is much louder than the blowers. Attorney Conn noted the company has never had an issue raised about its decibel levels. The team agreed to have that information for the board by its next meeting.
Chairman Dan Veerman also introduced a letter from Felix Taranto Jr., owner of the Triton Car Wash in Wilmington. Veerman summarized the letter, noting that Taranto raised concerns regarding traffic, noise level, exits, queues, mechanical breakdowns in the tunnel, the business model, water rinsing, the location, the layout of vacuums, and environmental noise.
After more than 30 minutes of discussion, the Board unanimously approved a motion to continue the hearing to its next meeting on Wednesday, September 12 at 7pm at Town Hall.
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