North Huntingdon commissioners concerned about volume, but OK dealership expansion
The Kenny Ross group of automotive dealerships has the go-ahead to expand its operations along Route 30 in North Huntingdon so long as it meets one condition set by township officials — keep the noise down.
Township commissioners voted unanimously to allow the company to build a 7,500-square-foot building along Route 30 adjacent to its Chevrolet dealership. The company sells GMC vehicles alongside Buicks in a showroom at the intersection of Route 30 and Center Highway. Kenny Ross also has separate dealerships for the Subaru and Mazda brands.
“The company is interested in building on the site because the trend in the auto industry is for each brand to have its own dealership whenever possible,” said Andrew Blenko, the municipality's planning director.
While the commissioners will allow the company to deviate from standards for things such as the width of the driveway and where landscaping is located, officials took issue with a common feature used in vehicle dealerships — an outdoor public address system used to summon lot attendants and sales personnel to the showroom.
“I'm asking that you to allow two small speakers on front of the building,” said Anthony Ross, one of the company's owners who addressed the board at a recent meeting. “They are part of our business operation and we have them on every one of our facilities.”
Ross said the location of the speakers would be about 70 feet from Route 30.
“We would be very considerate to neighbors and want to keep it as quiet as possible,” Ross said. “We will turn it down so it won't be a bother to anybody.”
Ross said the PA system will not be used for music and would only be used 10 to 15 times during daylight hours on Mondays through Saturdays.
Ross said the closest homes would be about 350 feet away and down a 50- to 75-foot hill.
“We really don't see where there will be any sound that can be heard from our speakers at those homes,” Ross said.
Commissioner Chairman Rich Gray questioned why the speaker system could not be replaced with some other means of summoning employees.
“They (the speakers) are an important part of our business,” Ross said. “We've tried using pagers or telephones in the past, and it just doesn't work for a lot of different reasons. (The PA system) is kind of a traditional way we've run our business.”
Ross noted that the company has been quick to respond to any issues brought to its attention in the past.
“I'm just giving you my word that we will do so now, even if it's to the point where we turn them (the sound system) off,” Ross said.
Gray did not question Ross' sincerity, but he noted that once the system is permitted, the township would not be able to stop it from being used.
Before a vote was taken to approve the site plan, township Manager John Shepherd suggested that language be added giving the board the authority to vote to order that the system be shut off if complaints are received.
Commissioner Tom Krause added that the commissioners would not consider forcing a business to alter its longstanding practices “if there were only one or two complaints.”
“I don't think that's a legitimate reason to remove the speakers because you're always going to have somebody who isn't happy,” he said. “But if it's a continual number of complaints, we would look at that.”
Tony LaRussa is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach him at 412-856-7400, ext. 8626, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.