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Variance to build Laughlintown car wash denied

| Thursday, June 5, 2014, 1:27 p.m.

The Ligonier Township zoning hearing board did not grant a request to construct a car wash along Route 30 in Laughlintown on May 27.

Ligonier Property Development, owned by David Herrholtz, requested a use variance to allow the construction of a self-service car wash along the northerly side of Route 30 in Laughlintown.

Engineer Timothy Fyock, of Benchmark Engineering & Construction, presented drawings of the proposed project to the board. He said it would include three self-service wash bays and one automatic wash bay, adding that it would be similar to the car wash in Ligonier Borough.

Fyock said there are residences on both side of the property. The hours of operation had not yet been established, he said, but he and Herrholtz would be willing to accommodate the township's recommendations.

In regard to lighting the facility, Fyock said they found the township's requirement for such areas to be “a bit excessive.” He said they would reduce the lighting after hours and try to keep it to a minimum that would acceptable under the township ordinance.

The property in question is zoned village commercial, and solicitor Mark Sorice informed Fyock that a car wash is not listed as a permitted or conditional use in that zoning district. He asked Fyock what hardship the property owner has had with the property.

Fyock said Herrholtz put money into the property and has had it for sale for quite a while with no success.

“He came up with this plan as a way to make use of the property and try to recoup his money,” Fyock said. “As far as the use, I don't know that there are any uses in the ordinance for that particular area that would be as compatible with the type of business he does.”

Herrholtz also owns Ligonier Construction Co., Ligonier Trucking Co., Ligonier Drilling & Energy Services, Ligonier Stone & Lime Concrete Co., Derry Stone & Lime and Bullskin Stone & Lime.

Fyock said there was not a feasibility study done to determine the traffic flow when asked by board member Gary Thistlethwaite.

During comments from the public, eight township residents spoke against the proposal.

Donald Warren, who lives on the eastern side of the property, said he had concerns about how the proposed project would affect health, security and safety in his neighborhood, where the car wash would be near neighbor Laughlintown's Bicentennial Park. He felt the car wash would have a negative impact on Laughlintown, citing noise, lighting, water displacement and signage as potential nuisances.

“I just don't see it benefitting the neighborhood whatsoever,” he said. “I don't think it would fit into the scheme of the area.”

Sam McCall, a 7-year-old who resides on the other side of the property, does not want to live next to a car wash.

“It would be noisy and dirty,” he said. “If (Herrholtz) wants to put a car wash in, he can put it in his own yard. If he puts it in, I could get run over by a car. We would have to move, and I don't want to move.”

McCall's mother, Elizabeth McCall, said Laughlintown residents are very impassioned about not having a car wash near their homes. She presented a petition signed by 82 people against the construction of a car wash, as well as photos showing the proximity of her home to the property in question. She expressed worries about the safety of the many children in the neighborhood and how the car wash would detract from surrounding property values.

“We're not opposed to anything being on (the property) as a whole,” she said. “We're just opposed to a car wash or any other industry that would be loud and create this kind of hardship for the neighbors.”

After an executive session, Thistlethwaite made a motion to reject the application, which was seconded by Linda McDowell. The motion passed. Board member Robert Ramsey was not present. The board will later issue a written decision detailing their reasons, Sorice said.

The applicant will have 30 days to appeal the board's decision in the Westmoreland County Court of Common Pleas.

Fyock declined to comment on the board's decision. Herrholtz said on Friday he plans on appealing the decision.

Nicole Chynoweth is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-850-2862 or nchynoweth@tribweb.com.

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