Pearson Honda ran into a legal issue last week when it asked the Chesterfield Planning Commission for site plan approval to relocate its dealership to Hull Street Road on 12 acres in the southwest quadrant with North Spring Run Road.
To sort out its options, the dealership agreed to defer its hearing until April 21 when it is expected to decide whether to amend its zoning approval from 2000 and/or begin some of its site preparation in the hopes the legal issues will be resolved. The dealership and the commission acknowledged the possible risk for the latter option.
Though zoning is in place for operating a new car dealership at the site, the wording of the approval was designed for a shopping center anchored by Hannaford, a grocery chain that has since left the Richmond market. The conditions of zoning require a fence that Pearson Honda doesn’t want, architecture that’s designed for a grocery store and right-of-way to some of the land the company doesn’t want to give up.
“An approval [of the site plan] would not be legally sustainable,” counseled Assistant County Attorney Tara McGee.
Matoaca Commissioner Wayne Bass, who represents the district Pearson Honda is moving to, favored the dealership’s relocation, and the other commissioners were supportive also. Two residents of nearby Norwood Pond community were also complimentary of the company’s forthrightness and cooperation during its meetings with neighbors.
The Pearson dealerships are headquartered here in Chesterfield. In addition to Pearson Honda, the company owns Hyundai, Mitsubishi and Dodge dealerships in the county, plus Infinity, Chrysler, Jeep and Mazda dealerships in Henrico County. The Honda dealership opened in 1976 just west of what was then a bustling Cloverleaf Mall, but retail in that area has declined. A few years ago, Haley Toyota moved from its Midlothian Turnpike location a few blocks west of the Honda dealership to Hull Street Road at Route 288.
County staff recommended a 90-day deferral because it wanted time to consider architecture and road improvements as a condition of site plan approval. The company agreed to add an extra eastbound lane on Hull Street Road in front of the location and another 100 feet to the left-hand turn lane westbound where cars back up turning onto North Spring Run Road.
“It’s currently beyond its capacity,” said Steve Adams of the Chesterfield Transportation Department. The county wants 500 feet westbound plus a raised median for the first 700 feet on Spring Run.
But Bill Johns representing the dealership countered that the traffic study would only generate 2,035 daily visits compared to 14,805 for the previously approved shopping center. “That’s 85 percent fewer vehicles,” he said, so Pearson shouldn’t have to make so many improvements, he surmised.
Because the new Pearson Honda would be a much larger site, it will add another 40 employees. The building contractor “is ready to go,” Johns told the commission, providing 200 construction jobs almost immediately.
The current Pearson Honda could become a used-car lot, but a spokesperson for the dealership told this newspaper last January that a decision won’t be made until closer to when Pearson Honda relocates. The target date for opening the new location is next January.
The company also owns a four-parcel site on Hull Street Road just east of Clover Hill High School across from the Clover Hill Fire Station. According to Senior Planner Jeff Lamison, a used-car lot is planned there. The 7.5-acre site is already zoned for automotive sales.
This story first ran in the Chesterfield Observer, which is an RBS news partner.