WATERVILLE — A proposal to build an automatic, 24-hour car and dog wash business at 145 Kennedy Memorial Drive is dead in the water.

City councilors Tuesday voted 4-3 to rezone the property but needed a two-thirds majority, so the proposal failed.

“It never should have been a debate to begin with,” Merryfield Avenue resident David Patenaude said outside on the sidewalk after the vote. “The business is not appropriate for the neighborhood.”

Like many residents who stood to speak against the plan by Jerald Hurdle to establish Yellow Dog Car Wash at the former A.L. Weeks & Sons auto body and sales lot, Patenaude said rezoning the spot would lead to all kinds of problems, including fights and noise. He said his 12-year-old son’s bedroom overlooks the lot and if the plan were approved, he’d have to tell his son to wear ear plugs to bed.

After the vote, Patenaude expressed relief but wished the best for Hurdle in his future efforts.

“I sincerely hope that Mr. Hurdle finds an appropriate business to put on his property so that he doesn’t lose all the money he’s spent,” Patenaude said.

Council Chairman Fred Stubbert, D-Ward 1, Sydney Mayhew, R-Ward 4, Dana Bushee, D-Ward 6, and Karen Rancourt-Thomas, D-Ward 7, voted to approve the rezoning; councilors Nathaniel White, D-Ward 2, Rosemary Winslow, D-Ward 3, and John O’Donnell, D-Ward 5, voted against it.

Perhaps the most adamant opponent was O’Donnell, in whose ward the property lies. O’Donnell said he wanted to apologize to the Planning Board, which was the target of Mayor Nick Isgro and others after that board voted 6-0 last week to postpone voting on a site plan for the business until the council had a chance to consider rezoning the lot. Board members reasoned that if the zoning request failed, the site plan review would be moot. They also said the logical and necessary way for a site plan request to be processed is for the council to consider the zoning first.

Isgro said on Twitter, the social media site, shortly after the Planning Board vote last week that the board was inept and better screening was needed for future board candidates.

His comments drew backlash from board members who said his comments were uncalled for and unprofessional. Isgro promptly wrote letters of apology to the members, saying he was sorry for his divisive comments.

At Tuesday’s council meeting, Isgro and O’Donnell engaged in a short, tart exchange after Isgro and Bushee said the work to find a compromise between neighbors and businesses would occur at the Planning Board level, not that of the City Council.

O’Donnell assured residents near the 145 Kennedy Memorial Drive site that they would have a chance to air their concerns before the council.

“You folks have a right to speak,” O’Donnell said. “Don’t feel as though he Planning Board is the place you need to talk.”

Isgro and Bushee interjected, but O’Donnell shot back in anger.

“You’re trying to suggest they should go somewhere else, OK?” he said.

At that, Isgro slammed the gavel.

“This will be a polite and peaceful meeting,” he said.

One after another, residents stood at the podium to oppose the business.

Betty Begin, of Yeaton Street, said she was concerned about the car and dog wash being open 24 hours. She also said there would be noise and having a coin- or bill-changing machine on site could draw trouble.

“The lure of cash on hand is very concerning,” she said.

Begin also wondered aloud whether her property value would decrease because of the business.

“If it’s going to bring my house value down, am I going to get a credit on my taxes for that?” she asked.

Stan Theriault, of Merryfield Avenue, said he saw a video Hurdle showed of the car wash at the Planning Board last week and it looked like a fantastic car wash, but it does not belong in the neighborhood.

“I read city ordinances and the zoning ordinance, and if this is not the typical definition of spot zoning, I don’t know what is,” Theriault said.

Spot zoning is changing the zone of a particular lot at the request of the owner and in the absence of any public necessity or need.

Others Tuesday expressed concerns about black ice forming from the car wash in winter and making the roads treacherous.

Former Councilor Steve Aucoin said he was disturbed by those who characterized people who oppose the car and dog wash as anti-business.

“Maybe, maybe, if you’re opposed to the zoning change, maybe you’re pro-resident,” Aucoin said.

He said the neighbors have worked hard to establish themselves in their homes. They pay taxes, and to change the rules and change the zone now is unfair, he said.

Hurdle stood to say the business would help the community and the city’s tax base.

“It’s been bantered that this is the worst thing since sliced bread, that the noise is going to be the amount of a nuclear plant,” he said.

But the business actually would implement new technologies for noise reduction, and would be clean, friendly and earthy, Hurdle said.

“I’m a physician. Cleanliness is next to Godliness and I respect your views, but I also ask you to respect my views and to look at this opinion from both sides of the coin and make an honest opinion. Thank you.”

O’Donnell said there would be noise and the potential for activity on the site all night if the land is rezoned and a site plan approved.

“There’s going to be black ice, folks, and who are you going to call? Not the owner; he’s not going to be there, folks,” O’Donnell said.

He said there are better sites for a car and dog wash than 145 Kennedy Memorial Drive.

“There is no compelling reason to put this in our neighborhood. Thank you,” he said.

His comment drew applause from residents.

Asked after the vote if the proposal could come up again, City Solicitor Bill Lee said the only way it could be reintroduced is if a councilor at the next meeting makes a motion to reconsider the issue — and it would have to be a councilor who voted against rezoning Tuesday.

“Because they’ve already been that route, I wouldn’t expect that,” he said.

Amy Calder — 861-9247

[email protected]

Twitter: @AmyCalder17

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