CarMax photo via Wikipedia user Ildar Sagdejev.
Written by John Lindt - contributor
After local car dealers pleaded with the Visalia City Council not to approve a “big box” car dealership’s proposed location on South Mooney Boulevard, the council voted 3-to-2 this week to oppose allowing CarMax at that location.
A long standing city policy has prohibited car dealers from locating there. “We would all love to have a location on Mooney across from Target,” said Ed Dena, owner of Ed Dena’s Auto Center in Visalia and Dinuba.
Some feel the rules restricting zoning on the thoroughfare are outdated.
“The world has changed” said Harvey May, president of Paloma Development, who has a hand in the proposed project. “There is a reason why this project is 100% staff supported.” He pointed out many “regional retail stores no longer exist,” arguing that the site at Mooney Boulevard and Visalia Parkway should be available for any car dealer who meets the specifications- not just Carmax.
He pointed out that Visalia has apparently changed policy on grocery stores now that Aldi has been approved on Mooney. Existing policy also prohibited grocers on Mooney.
Carmax officials suggested new tax dollars would come to Visalia but several council members scoffed at the idea since tax dollars go to where the buyer lives – not where the car is sold.
The bulk of the audience comments echoed a theme of “we support the local dealers.”
Council member Greg Collins said “I supported not allowing car dealers on Mooney 25 years ago and and I support that tonight.”
Council member Bob Link, who will be stepping down this fall says he remembers when there was opposition to allowing development south of Packwood Creek and now there is a successful shopping center there. He voted in favor of Carmax.
Two members made the difference – Brian Poochigian and Steve Nelsen were convinced to support the Planning Commission denial a few weeks ago by the argument that it would be unfair to local dealers to make an exception for Carmax just because of their size. Phil Cox was in support of Carmax.
All council members said they wish CarMax would come to town to one of the approved sites like Plaza Drive.