City Approves Plan to Complete Long Unfinished Car Wash

 12/16/2016 - 01:18
Doug Deal (left) signs the final site plan with help from City Superintendent Gary Roubal

For over a decade, the Clean Get-A-Way Car Wash at 121 Sage Court near Tractor Supply has sat unused, deteriorating, a canvas for graffiti artists. Nevertheless, since the project was approved in October 2002, owner Doug Deal has continued to pay taxes on the property.

This past Wednesday, the Saline Planning Commission met to discuss Deal’s recent application to complete the project he began 14 years ago.

“It was on hold for a number of years,” said City Engineer Gary Roubal. “The site plan actually expired after it had been extended several times. And Mr. Deal now found that it’s feasible to finish the car wash and restore the property to the original site plan requirements.”

The combined preliminary and final site plan that the planners considered for approval is almost the same as that approved long ago. Commissioner Cheryl Hoeft noted that she and some others in the room were on the board when the project was first proposed.

“You deserve some sort of award,” Chairperson Bill Beardsley said as Deal came to the podium. “You’ve certainly been perseverant, and we appreciate that.”

Deal provided a brief history of what has happened and described what he would like to accomplish. He told of how his father took ownership of Huron Valley Sales, Inc. in 1962 and he bought out his father in 1997. The company makes equipment used by car washes.

He is in the process of selling the business, but he will retain a contract with the new equity partners for five years, he said. This, he says, will free him to complete the long idled project.

“Our goal with this hasn’t changed,” Deal said. “It’s really, number one, to provide a service in Saline and, number two, for the products that we currently manufacture and distribute across North America in the water heating and wastewater treatment industry, to use that as training and showcase.”

The company was once located on Industrial Drive, not far from the location of the carwash. Although it has since moved, Deal still sees value in the carwash as a place to demonstrate company products.

He would also like to have the carwash sufficiently automated so that it can provide employment for handicapped adults. He suggested there could be some synergy between the carwash and the Three Oaks development planned for Maple Road that will include housing for the developmentally handicapped.

City staff recommended approval of the renewed site plan with seven conditions:

  1. The owner will provide reports to confirm that all existing building and site improvements have been restored and satisfactory for use and function.
  2. The applicant shall remove the vegetative overgrowth from the detention pond so that the storm structures and pond area can be inspected.
  3. No occupancy/use permit shall be issued until the applicant has restored the detention pond system as determined by an inspection and recommendations by the DPW Director after the vegetative overgrowth has occurred.
  4. The replacement of dead or missing trees and landscape materials will occur no later than June 1, 2017.
  5. The applicant shall provide the fixture details and revised photometric plan if an L.E.D. lamp system is installed.
  6. The bituminous base layer of pavement throughout the site shall be crack-sealed, patched, and repaired prior to installing the top layer of bituminous.
  7. Site signage details shall be provided for review and approval of the building department to obtain a sign permit.

Since this was a public hearing, there was time for the public to comment, but nobody was present to speak for or against the project.

The disappointing past history seemed to make the commissioners a bit skeptical. Dean Girbach suggested that the applicant should be asked to sign a performance bond, i.e., a bond issued by a financial institution guaranteeing the fulfillment of the contract.

“I’m trying to make sure that whatever happens is completed, no matter what,” Girbach said.

“He has to provide surety before he can get occupancy,” Roubal said. “So anything that’s not completed will be covered by that surety, otherwise he can’t occupy the building.”

Since the project was mostly unchanged except for the design of the canopy, Beardsley wondered if updated building codes would apply. Roubal said that new construction and any replaced equipment would be subject to the current codes.

The site plan is valid for one year after which the project needs to be completed or the owner needs to apply for an extension. No one wanted more extensions.

Deal said that cold weather would delay the start of the project, but he expected that once started it would only take six months to complete. He said he already owned the required equipment, which only needed to be installed. The entire project, he believed, could be completed for about $200,000.

Mayor Brian Marl noted that in his time as mayor he gets asked almost weekly about what is happening to that car wash. He said he would be glad to finally be able to give a definitive answer.

Beardsley expressed some reservation that the project could actually be completed in six months. He called for a motion to approve or not approve the project.

There was silence for an uncomfortable amount of time, but finally Scott Fosdick moved to approve the plan and it was quickly seconded by Daniel Carroll. When put to a vote, the commissioners approved unanimously.  

Bob Conradi Is a retired pharmaceutical scientist who has redefined himself as a photographer and journalist. He has lived in Michigan for 36 years and in the Saline area for 10. He enjoys researching and learning about new ideas. Reach him at bobcphotography@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter at @RobertConradi.