York residents petition city to prevent used car lot in historic district

jbecknell@enquirerherald.comOctober 29, 2013 

— A group of York residents, many who live in the city’s historic district, are petitioning the city with their opposition to a used car lot in the district, next to Rose Hill Cemetery.

Gary and Paulajo Gross, who live in an historic home on East Liberty Street, said they are among the group collecting signatures. The petition asks that a used car lot not be permitted in the historic district “because it’s inappropriate,” Gary Gross said.

York Mayor Eddie Lee told residents Saturday, during the Yorkville Historical Society’s Stories of the Stones tour at Rose Hill, that the used car lot will not happen.

“There will not be a used cat lot next to this special place,” Lee told about 80 people who gathered for the opening ceremony.

Lee urged people to sign the petition, which he said will be presented at a Nov. 5 meeting of the York City Council. At that meeting, Lee said, “I will speak in favor of an appropriate use of the property.”

The property owner, York native Jerry Benfield, came to York’s historic commission earlier this month seeking approval for a used car lot on the 3.5-acre property he purchased about two years ago.

The property is zoned general industrial, according to city planning director David Breakfield, who said a car lot would be permitted under that zoning. However, he said a site plan would need to be submitted by the property owner and be approved by the commission.

Benfield could not be reached for comment.

Lee said he will suggest that the property become a park. He said the owner could donate the property to the city and benefit from a tax write-off.

“I feel that would be a good resolution to the matter,” Lee said, adding that he is “confident” the matter can be resolved.

Benfield is operating a bail bond business in an office on the property. He told the historic commission he wants to put gravel on the area fronting Liberty Street for a used car lot business, with about 15 to 20 cars.

The property is a narrow strip between Wright Funeral Home and Rose Hill Cemetery, where grave sites date to the early 1820s. It is bordered by Cemetery and Hunter streets.

The front of the property includes some natural stone work and stone benches by a former York resident, Dan Howacyn, said Lee.

The Yorkville Historical Society discussed the used car lot proposal during a meeting last week, Gary Gross said. He said all of the about 45 people who attended the meeting were opposed to the plan.

Ed Wood, chairman of the historic commission, said the panel can’t deny a request to develop a used car lot on the property because that use is allowed under the zoning.

Normally, Wood said, requests for rezoning come from the property owner.

However, Wood said the historic commission plans to pass the request on to the city zoning commission, which he said can petition the City Council with a request that the property be rezoned.

Jennifer Becknell •  803-329-4077

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