Honda Cars of Aiken, which is working toward establishing a used vehicle lot on the Southside of the city, hit a small stumbling block Thursday evening.
The Board of Zoning Appeals denied a landscape variance request from the dealership with a five-to-one vote – Board Member Henry Krippner voted against the denial and Jason Price was not present.
Honda Cars of Aiken is looking to expand its business to 399 Silver Bluff Road, where Blockbuster was located until it closed in 2012.
The variances that the dealership requested was to remove shrubbery that surrounds the property. The purpose of those shrubs is to screen several detention areas as well as the fronts of parked vehicles from the road.
The business' General Manager Robert Pennington said the variance was requested so that their inventory could be seen from the road. The current shrubs average 2 to 5 feet in height.
Board Member S.J. Paterniti, who moved to deny the request, said that when he drives by the dealerships located on Jefferson Davis Highway, including Honda Cars of Aiken, he really can't see the vehicles on the large lots when driving by them at the posted speed limit.
“Why is it necessary to really see the cars from the street?” he asked.
With the property being located at the corner of Silver Bluff and Pine Log roads, there is a high amount of traffic, which means the lot could be highly visible to many potential customers, Pennington said. With stop lights and a slower speed limit, there are more opportunities to see the inventory, he said.
Pennington added they would aim for a more “golf course appearance” with the landscaping.
The business was planning to plant grass in the area where the shrubs are located and was willing to plant a row of evergreen bushes that would mature to 12 inches tall.
Several issues with the request were cited by board members, including a concern with safety as it was said that the shrubs keep pedestrians from tripping or falling into the detention areas that the plants are currently screening.
Editor's note: This version of this story has been updated to correct the name of Robert Pennington, Honda Cars of Aiken general manager. The Aiken Standard regrets the error.