Lloyd Bridges Traveland gets preliminary approval to store RVs on Chelsea parking lot
The sale, rentals and service of recreational vehicles as a special use in a restricted commercial district on the south side of Chelsea was unanimously approved on first reading by the Chelsea City Council Tuesday night.
Automobile sales are already allowed in the C-4 district and heavy trucks have been parked on the lot known as the Palmer Ford mid-lot in Chelsea’s “Southtown area” near I-94. But Jerry Bridges of Lloyd Bridges Traveland wants to store recreational vehicles and send customers to the parking lot, which has an entrance off Old Manchester Road across from the fairgrounds.
In September, Biff Weber filed a petition with the Chelsea Planning Commission for the zoning change on behalf of the recreational vehicle dealership at 1603 S Main St., and the planners unanimously denied the request. According to the minutes of the Sept. 20 meeting, the planning commissioners said that recreational vehicles were out of place in the area because they are much larger than cars in an area that’s supposed to be a transitional zoning area in the city.
“The intent of a special land use is to permit a use that would normally be detrimental to other uses permitted; unless carefully controlled as to the number, area, size, exterior design and location or relation to the adjacent properties and to the neighborhood,” according to staff comments on the agenda item.
However, “sometimes these ‘out of the way’ locations may work better than the more exposed lots within the districts where the use is allowed,” the staff report states.
Planning Commission Chairman George Kinzer said at the time that “the other concern is the visual impact from those entering the fair(grounds) site with that property across the street,” minutes show.
Bridges appealed to the City Council Tuesday night, explaining that he has had to completely change the way he does business in this economy. “We had to start buying RVs in bulk in the middle of winter.” He said he needs not only a place to store them but also to show them to customers.
He said Lloyd Bridge’s Traveland is a family-owned business that’s been in Chelsea for 33 years and which brings a lot of people into Chelsea. “Eighty percent of the people come from outside the area and stay overnight,” he said. “They eat, stay and shop in Chelsea.”
He said his business supports 30 local families and 250 vendors, and plans to have about $15 million in inventory in November and December, because that’s when he can get the best prices when buying the vehicles in bulk.
Council member Cheri Albertson said she had a number of concerns about the approval of this special use. “It’s inappropriate to undermine the process of the Planning Commission that based its decision on the findings,” she said, adding that this would set a precedent for future special use requests.
Plus, she said, the company was in violation of city ordinance for 18 months because RV’s were already being parked there.
In the end, she voted in favor of the special use on first reading.
“In this economy, I think we should clear as many paths as possible for businesses,” said council member Ann Feeney.
Council member Rod Anderson agreed saying the City Council should take into account the current times, while Mayor Jason Lindauer said a second lot of RVs would bring even more value to the business and additional people shopping for recreational vehicles into the city.
Lisa Allmendinger is a regional reporter for AnnArbor.com. She can be reached at email@example.com. For more Chelsea stories, visit our Chelsea page.