The Montgomery Village Board rejected a request Monday evening for a special use permit that would have allowed for the construction of a Christian Brothers auto repair shop at the southeast corner of Route 30 and Orchard Road, immediately north of the Walmart store.
In rejecting the permit request in a 3-2 ballot, a majority of board members expressed concerns over the proposed location of the shop next to an existing Merlin 200,000 Mile auto repair shop.
Casting "no" votes on the motion to approve the permit were board members Steve Jungermann, Stan Bond and Theresa Sperling. Board members Doug Marecek and Denny Lee voted in favor of granting the permit. Another board member, Pete Heinz, was absent from the meeting.
Christian Brothers had asked the board to amend the original development agreement that governs the vacant outlots north of the Walmart store. That agreement limits the number of auto repair businesses on the site to one.
Referring to the Christian Brothers site, Sperling said, “My issue is the location right next to the Merlin's. That’s the key for me. There may be some differences with the businesses, but for me doesn’t it make sense to have the two stores next to each other.”
Sperling added that she “would be fine” with Christian Brothers locating on another, nearby site.
Jungermann said he was opposed to amending the ordinance to grant the special use.
Bond said he agreed with Jungermann and expressed concern that granting the special use permit would have what he described as a “deleterious effect” on value of the Merlin property.
The village plan commission had previously endorsed the granting of the special use permit.
Village President Matt Brolley noted the owners of the outlots that includes the Merlin shop and proposed Christian Brothers site had placed a restrictive covenant on the property that limited the number of auto repair businesses on the property to one. That covenant, however, expired in 2013.
Brolley questioned why Merlin, in locating on the property, had not sought to have the landowners extend the covenant past 2013 when they purchased their lot if they were concerned about another auto repair firm locating nearby.
Ray Munoz, a general manger with Merlin, said he did not know why his firm had not sought to extend the covenant.
Munoz emphasized that his firm is not opposed to Christian Brothers locating in Montgomery.
“Don’t get me wrong. We just don’t want [our shops] back-to-back,” Munoz said, adding, “If they want to move to the other side of the street over by the Hair Cuttery or Sport Clips or the phone company [stores] ... fine. We don’t have a problem with that.”
Brolley expressed concern that by rejecting the special use permit, the village could be inviting a legal challenge.
Responding to questions from board members, Steve Andersson, village attorney, said it is not his role to advise board members on how to vote. Referring to the Christian Brothers request, Andersson said, “If you find they meet all the requirements [in the village’s zoning ordinance] you should grant the special use – whether you like it or not. If you feel they do not meet the requirements for a special use, then you should deny it, whether you like it or not.”
Andersson said no matter how the board votes on the permit request, either side, Merlin or Christian Brothers, could have legal standing to challenge it.
“If someone wants to challenge us in court, they have every right to do that," Andersson said.