Newly-approved car dealership leaves Augusta residents divided


AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) — A new car dealership is coming to Washington Road. The Augusta-Richmond County Commission narrowly approved plans to rezone 4.47 acres of land during Tuesday’s meeting. However, commissioners were divided on the issue. They voted five to five, with Mayor Hardie Davis casting the deciding the vote.

Commissioner Catherine Smith McKnight was undecided going into Tuesday’s vote, but ultimately voted in favor of the dealership.

“At the end of the day, this was probably the best case scenario,” Smith McKnight explains. “If you put a shopping strip there with — let’s say tattoo parlors, vape shops, nail salons or restaurants — those places will stay open until maybe nine or 10 o’clock at night, and they’re open on Sundays. With a car dealership, you’re looking at closing at it about eight o’clock, and they’re not open on Sundays.”

An 18,000 square foot building will be built on the property along with 231 parking spaces. Darren Meadows, an attorney representing the dealership, says a fence will be built between the property and residential area. They decided to increase the buffer zone between the two areas to 25 feet after speaking with concerned residents.

However, several residents who attended Tuesday’s meeting worried the dealership would create traffic in the area.

“The dealership exit on Warren Road is only about a quarter mile from Warren Road Elementary School and county recreation center,” Jim Daniels says. “This is an area with a heavy concentration of children. This is a further confirmation that auto dealerships should not be in the backyards of neighborhoods and residences.”

Meadows says they expect less than 150 cars to drive in and out of the dealership daily, arguing there would be more traffic if a restaurant, retail space or office building was built instead.

Daniels also introduced concerns about noise and bright lights potentially shining on his neighborhood.

“Property values of homes adjacent to the proposed car dealership will drop in value immediately because prospective home buyers will not want to purchase a home and live next to a car dealership,” he claims.

Some residents are not too worried about the new development. Randall Wilkinson, who has lived in Montclair for 14 years, tells NewsChannel 6 he has seen Washington Road grow. He says he would rather see a “quality” business be built on the property instead of something else.

“Something’s going to go there,” Wilkinson says. “Given the fact that it’s Jim Hudson, whom I know will build a quality building there, I know they’ll do the right thing.”

The commission’s approval of the dealership comes as it works to bring new revenue to Augusta. Meadows says about 30 jobs will be created, and more than half a million dollars in tax revenue will be brought into the city.

“This dealership said, ‘If  you don’t accept it, we’re going to Columbia County,'” Smith McKnight explains. “We’re trying to keep businesses and bring people here for jobs. But then, you have people who are complaining. I’d support it again tomorrow and twice on Sunday. I think it’s the right thing to do.”

If the dealership is sold in the future, its new owner will be required to return to the commission to receive zoning approval.

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