WATERVILLE — A debate about rezoning property on Kennedy Memorial Drive to allow a 24-hour car wash could lead to a broader discussion of whether to review the city’s zoning ordinance.

The controversial project has been in the works since June, when the Planning Board recommended the City Council rezone the parcel to allow Jerald Hurdle to build an 24-hour automatic car wash at 145 Kennedy Memorial Drive, the location of the former A.J. Weeks auto body shop.

Neighbors have objected to the development, saying it would produce too much noise and traffic for the residential area. The Planning Board chairman, the only member to vote against the project, objected to the contract rezoning as spot zoning and said Friday that those who buy property should be aware of the zoning and not expect it to be rezoned to accommodate their plans.

The council also rejected Hurdle’s rezoning request, at a July 21 meeting; but it reversed its position at Tuesday’s meeting, voting to reconsider rezoning the parcel after Councilor Sydney Mayhew, R-Ward 4, said the denial made it appear that Waterville is against new businesses.

However, the council didn’t vote on Hurdle’s request. Instead, councilors and Mayor Nick Isgro said they wanted to wait for the Planning Board to review Hurdle’s site plan at its meeting on Monday before taking action on the zoning. That meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m.

Planning Board Chairman David Geller said Friday that not rezoning the area means the board shouldn’t be able to review the application, since it proposes a building that legally isn’t allowed at the site.

“It doesn’t make any sense for the Planning Board to do a site review before the council decides the zoning issue,” Geller said. “It’s premature, it’s backwards, and its a waste of the city’s resources.”

The confusion and controversy about the project has shed a light on the need for the city to take look at its zoning and consider rezoning, Isgro said. Construction projects in the city regularly need to get rezoning approval from the council, pointing to the need for a review, he added.

“This particular project has pushed the issue to the forefront,” Isgro said.

If the Planning Board votes to review the site plan without having it rezoned first, Geller said he would be “legally obligated” to vote against the project.

Geller was the only Planning Board member who voted against recommending rezoning the parcel.

Geller said after the June meeting he had voted against it because he opposes contract — or spot — zoning, which changes the zone of a particular lot to accommodate a lot owner in the absence of any public necessity or need.

He said Friday that Hurdle should have known that he wasn’t allowed to build a car wash on the property when he bought it, instead of relying on rezoning for his project.

Isgro, on the other hand, said he has been assured by city planner Ann Beverage and city attorney Bill Lee that the Planning Board can make the site plan approval conditional on rezoning. That means that the board could complete its review and vote on Hurdle’s application at its meeting Monday, but the application wouldn’t be effective until the council approves the rezoning.

“I respect David Geller’s position on the Planning Board, but I think this is a case of who makes that decision. Is it David Geller or the city attorney and city planner?” Isgro said Friday. “I’m going to fall back on the people we pay to advise on these things.”

Geller disagreed that the Planning Board could include rezoning as a condition. What zone a project is in is a “fundamental requirement,” and approving an application without it being fulfilled wouldn’t be correct, Geller said.

The board in June recommended the property be rezoned with several conditions, including setbacks, fencing and a 20-foot-wide, 10-foot-high landscaped strip along Kennedy Memorial Drive. The board also agreed that no driveway as part of the business would provide access to or from Merryfield Avenue, traffic couldn’t back onto Kennedy Memorial Drive and traffic leaving the business must turn right only, according to proposed restrictions.

Peter McGuire — 861-9239

[email protected]

Twitter: PeteL_McGuire

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