Longtime car dealership receives permits to stay in business

Longtime car dealership receives permits to stay in business
Alexandria Hyundai has occupied Mount Vernon Avenue for more than 20 years. (Courtesy photo)

By Kassidy McDonald kmcdonald@alextimes.com

The Alexandria Planning Commission conditionally approved special use permit requests submitted by Alexandria Hyundai that will keep the longtime car dealership in business.

Kevin Reilly, who has been the owner of the Alexandria Hyundai dealership on Mount Vernon Ave. for more than 20 years, filed three different SUPs – two of which the commission approved with conditions and one they did not.

Reilly told the commission that in order to stay in business, he needs to keep up with industry changes and convert to electric vehicles.

“Hyundai has a global design initiative program, and as a dealer if I do not comply, the financial penalties basically make it not viable for me to continue,” Reilly said.

Ann Horowitz, principal urban planner of Alexandria, gave an overview presentation of the three different SUP requests proposed by Alexandria Hyundai. She first went over the context of the three sites that are adjacent to each other and are collectively located on two acres of land. These sites are found in the Commercial low and Mount Vernon Avenue Urban Overlay.

The Hyundai accessory parking lot, the southernmost of the three sites, is of non-conforming use, according to Horowitz.

“Hyundai auto sales repair center and accessory parking lot do not conform with the goals of the Potomac West Small Area Plan, which covers this location,” Horowitz said. “The plan states that the goal for this section of the avenue is to prioritize the pedestrian over the automobile, and the redevelopment of automobile oriented uses such as gas stations, services uses and automobile dealerships … that is to ensure a pedestrian friendly environment.”

The first of the three SUP requests to extend the use of the accessory parking lot at 1605- 1611 Mount Vernon Ave from 2025, when it expires, to 2045. The second SUP for Hyundai sales and service requests to physically expand the number of operational hours and to allow off site parking. The third for Genesis sales and service, which is the luxury Hyundai line, is to physically expand and extend business hours.

With the proposed extension of the parking lot, Hyundai would install seven electric vehicle chargers, four of which would be accessible to the public 24 hours a day, a service reception area with a canopy and another service reception area for Genesis.

City staff then recommended denial, as the requests “do not conform with the master plan” of Alexandria.

“The expansions and extensions would foster a longer term automobile use along a substantial length of the avenue, and this would continue to prioritize cars over pedestrians and physically and aesthetically interrupt the neighborhood …” Horowitz said.

Staff then recommended conditions for approval which included “improving the visual quality of the streetscape such as adding trees and adding a wall for visual interest, reducing spill-over lighting and glare and reviewing at public hearings in 10 years before Dec. 31, 2032 for neighborhood compatibility and redevelopment potential.” Staff presented conceptual drawings of mixed-uses for the site including a building that had townhomes with a car dealership on the ground floor.

Cathay Puskar, who represents Reilly as a land use attorney, disagreed with staff’s recommendations and noted that the height restrictions in Del Ray would prohibit residential development above an automobile dealership.

“You cannot fit a dealership and have an economically viable use with a dealership and residential units above when you only have 40 feet to work with,” Pulsar said. “For them to show the figure that they showed of a dealership in Bethesda and how successful that was as a mixed-use building, that building is 60 feet tall.”

All three special use permit requests will now go to City Council for review.