Forsyth County — A Cumming Honda dealership has received approval to allow all of its display vehicles to be visible along Hwy. 20 and to allow deliveries during certain hours each day.
During their regular meeting Thursday night, Forsyth County commissioners unanimously approved requested variances for Lou Sobh Honda on Hwy. 20 near Market Place Boulevard.
However, after hearing concerns from neighbors, commissioners agreed to postpone a vote that would have granted the same variances for a proposed Kia dealership.
Sobh representatives plan to construct the Kia facility on land adjacent to the Honda dealership, which opened in December.
Ethan Underwood, an attorney representing the Sobh business, said currently in the county that vehicle dealerships can’t have more than 30 percent of their inventory visible from a right of way.
“To me, that really makes a car dealership unfeasible, can’t function, so we’re asking [for this variance],” Underwood said.
The other variance request allows the dealership to have deliveries from parts suppliers between the hours of 6 a.m. and 10 p.m.
Denise Hously, a resident of Grove Park subdivision, one of several that adjoin the Sobh property, said she and her neighbors were in favor of the variance request.
“We have worked with Sobh to a great extent to try to address issues we currently have with light spillage. Sobh has worked with us greatly,” she said, noting that the dealership has agreed to reduce the number of lights it leaves on overnight as well as build a “good buffer of foliage and trees.”
Kirk Wintersteen spoke against the move, saying that for a variance, an applicant needs to show some form of hardship or something that is unique.
“I don’t see any of those factors in this variance,” he said.
“Car dealerships are going to be able to survive in this county without variances.”
Ronald Hagey, a resident of Wellstone subdivision, which also borders the property, said he and other residents of his neighborhood had no problem with the variance for the Honda dealership, but did have one concern with the Kia site.
“We have met with the Sobh people, with Ethan, and they’ve been very helpful, very straight forward and they’re tried to work with us,” Hagey said. “We really don’t have many issues with them except for the buffer.”
He explained that the Kia site is planned to have a 25-foot buffer, but residents would like to see that increased.
However, Underwood said an increase is not possible since the buffer sits adjacent to a storm sewer, over which no trees can be planted.
Commissioners Jim Boff and Todd Levent asked if it would be possible for the Sobh family to leave an additional 15 feet on the opposite side of the storm sewer area, which would cut into the dealership’s parking area.
“It is problematic because you’re asking somebody to give his land away,” Underwood said.
After some discussion, Boff moved to postpone the variance request and discussion of the buffer at the future Kia site until the group’s Feb. 20 meeting.