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Wednesday, 21 September 2016 14:33

Wrecker service denied location in Sylva

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A vacant lot along the gateway to Sylva from Dillsboro will stay empty for a while longer following the town board’s decision to deny a request from Whittier-based C&D Towing and Wrecker Service to use the property for an impound lot.

To place the lot there, C&D would have needed a conditional use permit from the town. Board members denied it based on their finding that the use would injure the value of adjoining properties and wouldn’t fit the character of the area. The vote came after a unanimous decision by the Sylva Planning Board to recommend denial of the permit. 

“The planning board didn’t feel that the towing or wrecker service fit the character of that neighborhood,” Town Manager Paige Dowling told the board. “The concern was expressed that it was the entrance to town from Dillsboro.”

Located in a B1 zoning district, the 3.89-acre property abuts homes set in the town’s most restrictive residential zoning district, and those property owners came out to tell the town board why they shouldn’t have to share their property lines with an impound lot.  

“Our concerns would be that you would have these vehicles coming in at night, early morning hours with the lights and the noise of getting a vehicle off there to the impound area, and I think it’s going to have a net negative to that area,” said Keith Clark, whose family owns an undeveloped parcel in the area that he said they hope to build on some day. 

“My two primary objections are in regard to the negative impact it will have on the property value as well as the negative impact it would have on my 78-year-old mother’s well-being,” added Jill Tarr, who owns a home with her mother along the road that loops behind the property. Tar told the board that the loud noises associated with a wrecker service would harm her mother’s health, as sleeping is already difficult for her. 

But Daniel Smith, owner of C&D, told the board that those concerns wouldn’t be relevant to the actual use. 

“Eighty percent of your wrecks in the town of Sylva happen during the day, during business hours,” he said. “It’s not like you’re going to be in and out of there with highway wrecks, county wrecks.”

The only reason his business wants the lot, he said, is that town ordinance requires towing and wrecking services to have an impound lot in town if they’re to be on the rotation list to tow wrecks within town limits. In a follow-up interview, Smith said he was hoping that getting on that list would boost his business by familiarizing people with the C&D name — three other wrecker services already have lots in town. 

“I felt it would have helped us more to get people in Sylva to know us,” he said. “They get to know those guys in town because they’re always there. They always see them, where we’re not on that rotation so your name’s not as popular in town.”

When he approached the planning department about getting a lot, Smith said, he was told that there were two possible locations. The property out near the Dillsboro entrance to town seemed a good bet because it had a history of use as an impound lot and already had fencing and sidewalks around it. Smith said he didn’t believe the use would actually be that disruptive to the surrounding area, as only four or five cars would likely be there at any one time, and most of the traffic would occur during business hours. 

However, he said, he wasn’t surprised by the board’s denial. 

“You’re not going to convince anybody that it’s a good idea to put wrecks beside their property. How do you convince them of that?” he said after the decision. “Nobody wants the fire department behind their house till their house is on fire.”

C&D is eying another possible location, along Skyland Drive, but Smith isn’t sure they will apply for that permit — he feels it would just amount to the company paying a $300 application fee only to be told no again. 

“They’re requiring you to have a lot in city limits, but then they don’t want to let you put one nowhere,” Smith said in a follow-up interview.

However, following the hearing town board members told Smith they wished him well in his search for a space, echoing a comment made by adjoining property owner Richard Harper during the hearing. 

“Certainly this is a valuable service to our community,” Harper said, “but I think there’s a better home for this type of business.”

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