Monday, May 26, 2003

Car dealer ready to get started

Zoning board to review plans to replace restaurant

By Susan Vela
The Cincinnati Enquirer

MONTGOMERY - The Joseph family - known for owning car dealerships throughout the region - is within months of converting a historic restaurant site into an Audi dealership. The dealership that could open at 9678 Montgomery Road late this year would replace Chester's Road House, a restaurant that served people in this Hamilton County city for three decades.

The Board of Zoning Appeals will review two variance requests for the dealership at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday in Council chambers, 10101 Montgomery Road.

The Josephs already own several dealerships along Montgomery Road. This one would sell cars in the range of $26,000 to $80,000 and replace the Joseph Northland Porsche-Audi dealership in Forest Park. That location sells about 350 Audis per year.

"It's a good location. It's well positionedfor that type of automobile. They'll start as soon as they get approved. They're ready to go," said C. Francis Barrett, the attorney representing the Josephs.

The city's planning commissioners already have approved site development plans for the contemporary brick structure that would include a semi-arched roof and a conference room featuring reminders that Chester's once stood there.

"Of course, it looks like a car dealership," said Frank Davis, the city's community development director. "It would have been nice to have Chester's Road House continue as a viable business. But if the building was really best suited for a restaurant and if it can't be successfully run as a restaurant then we pretty much can't do much else with it."

The city's preservationists, who fought the razing of Chester's, already have said they'd prefer to see a dealership laden with the historic features that are part of the city's Heritage District. Yet they've learned the hard way to be realistic.

"Once the building is torn down, you need to understand that you can't get it back," said Janet Korach of the Montgomery Historical Preservation Association. "It's unfortunate that we don't have the building that used to be there. (However), it's difficult to imagine that you could have a colonial car dealership."

The variances under review Tuesday pertain to lighting and lot size. The Joseph family must demonstrate that the lighting will not detract from the surroundings and that a dealership on a 2-acre lot will not be too intrusive.

Last year, Montgomery adopted a new zoning ordinance that requires dealerships to rest on 3-acre lots.

Barrett, while representing the Joseph family, said that high-end dealerships typically are on 2-acre lots because they sell fewer cars than a Ford or Buick dealership.

Also, the new Audi dealership will sit 63 feet from the road, which is twice the setback required. The building's height will be 31 feet, about 15 feet shy of the city's limit.

If the variances are approved, council will hold a 6 p.m. June 4 hearing to discuss the site plans. The Joseph family could get a final approval in July.


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