A group of Greenwood residents voiced concerns about the construction of a car wash on the former Lotus Garden property during a meeting between residents, a city council member and a car wash representative Wednesday afternoon.
Last month, Lotus Garden, a Chinese restaurant at 49 Mercator Drive, Greenwood, closed after the owner of the building sold the property. The restaurant closed its doors for the last time on July 1, after more than 50 years of business.
Kopetsky Auto Wash, a local company, bought the property and is set to tear down the building and build its second location sometime next year.
To build on the property, Kopetsky had to get multiple zoning variances. The Greenwood Board of Zoning Appeals OK’d the requests in a 4-1 vote on June 14, despite the protests of several residents who live behind the property.
During Wednesday’s meeting between area residents, city council member Ezra Hill and Kopetsky, residents who live behind the property said they were concerned about the amount of traffic the car wash could potentially bring to the Madison Avenue and Mercator Drive intersection, an increase in traffic accidents and response times for first responders.
There are legitimate traffic concerns in the neighborhood, including now the number of cars that will go through the car wash, Hill said.
“I think it (the car wash) can handle the influx of cars going into the car wash and not backing out onto the road,” Hill said. “When they’re leaving, that’s the question mark right now. How is that going to affect the current traffic patterns that we have?”
The city last did a traffic study in the area in 2016, when it requested an overall study of the city’s traffic patterns. In 2016, 14,313 vehicles came through the Madison Avenue and U.S. 31 intersection daily, according to data from the Indiana Department of Transportation.
The 2016 study looked at several potential development scenarios, and found that traffic would not increase to a level outside of the city’s control. Earlier this year, the engineers behind the study, A and F Engineers, sent a letter to the city affirming that is still the case.
Area traffic concerns extend beyond the future car wash. The development of the former Greenwood Middle School property, announced in March, deepens concerns about traffic on Madison Avenue.
City officials said the 2016 traffic study looked at traffic numbers at the time as well as anticipated traffic from a future residential development that was actually bigger than the planned middle school property development.
The study did not account for the development of a car wash on the Lotus Garden property.
More recently, in 2020, the Madison Avenue and U.S. 31 intersection had an annual average daily traffic count of 12,298, according to INDOT. However, traffic counts were down last year due to the coronavirus pandemic. On Feb. 27, 2019, a total of 14,275 vehicles traveled through the intersection, according to INDOT.
The roundabout at Smith Valley Road, Madison Avenue and Meridian Street was intended to improve traffic flow in the area. There is not much more the city can do to alleviate traffic in the area, Hill said.
Kopetsky came to address the residents’ concerns because they are a part of the community and want to be a good neighbor, said John Mandabach, a business development executive at Kopetsky.
Before Kopetsky heard from the community, car wash leaders had decided to separate the entrance and exit to make it is easier for traffic to get through. Kopetsky also hired engineers that specialize in traffic design and business layouts, Mandabach said.
Kopetsky had already changed its design plans as a result of the hearing on the requested variances. The exit no longer will no longer have a right turn lane and will now have a no right turn sign, he said.
“We eliminated that extra lane for it because it’s not needed, and we felt like it would help steer traffic to the left,” Mandabach said.
Another concern residents had was about the noise the car wash’s vacuums might cause due to the car wash being open from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily.
Kopetsky will be using a different type of vacuum system, called variable frequency drives, or VFD, for the Mercator Drive location compared to the ones they use at then State Road 136 location, Mandabach said.
VFD vacuums are designed so their sound decreases as their use decreases and vice versa. They will also be turned off at night, along with most of the car wash’s equipment, he said.
Kopestky has also designed the car wash so there will not be a Kopetsky sign facing the neighborhood, another effort to limit the impact so car wash has on the neighborhood, Mandabach said.
Lights also shouldn’t be an issue. The city requires that a business’s lights stay on a business’s property, meaning the car wash’s lights are not allowed to interfere with the neighborhood, he said.
Elaine Parsons, a long-time resident of the neighborhood, has lived next to the property for 34 years. Her main concern about the car wash is safety.
“I just want to still feel safe,” Parsons said. “It’s all about the safety.”
The location of car the wash will be pushed back on the property as close to U.S. 31 — and away from the neighborhood — as INDOT will allow, Mandabach said.
“Our building is approximately 95 feet further … towards the street than the current building is,” Mandabach said. “We’ll be further away than the Lotus Garden is, and we’ll have less paved area than it has currently.”
The car wash also agreed to add 10 additional trees to its planned buffer zone between the car wash and the home immediately adjacent to it. After the Wednesday afternoon meeting, Kopetsky will ask the city if it can place them between the road and the garage of the adjacent home, he said.
Parsons does not have any concerns about the trees Kopetsky is planning to plant, she said.
The car wash was originally planned to open around May 2022, but because of supply chain issues due to the coronavirus pandemic, Kopetsky has had to push that back. Now, it is expected to open sometime in 2022, Mandabach said.
The residents have until July 14 to appeal the city zoning board’s approval of Kopetsky’s variance requests.