HOLYOKE — The eastern side of Whiting Farms Road could get a step closer Tuesday (May 12) to getting auto dealerships in plans that include a $10 million Gary Rome Hyundai facility.
The City Council Ordinance Committee will consider Planning Board recommendations on three zone-change petitions at 6:30 p.m. at City Hall.
The board has recommended that the City Council grant Gary Rome Hyundai a zone change to Business Highway from the current Business General, which prohibits an auto dealership. Rome wants to build a $10 million dealership on nearly 19 acres across from Autumn and Lynch drives owned by the Holyoke Gas and Electric Department (HGE).
Rome has a deal to buy the property from HGE for $2,050,000 contingent on getting the zone change.
The Planning Board voted 5-0 to recommend the full council grant the zone change, said Marcos A. Marrero, director of the city Department of Planning and Economic Development.
The board also voted 5-0 to recommend the City Council reject a petition residents filed to change the zone of the same property Rome is targeting to a designation called RM-20, Marrero said. That stands for Multi-Family Residence at 20 units per acre. The uses are generally housing with limited commercial uses like bed and breakfast, funeral home, hospital and nursing home.
Also, the board with one member recused from voting decided in a 3-1 vote to recommend the City Council grant James P. Lavelle Jr. a zone change to Business Highway from the current Business General to allow for auto sales at the family-run JP’s Restaurant & Sports Bar at 200 Whiting Farms Road, Marrero said.
Lavelle would sell a maximum of four vehicles at a time at the site, he told the Ordinance Committee and Planning Board.
The Ordinance Committee will consider the Planning Board recommendations in voting its own own recommendation to the full City Council, which has authority over zone changes.
Most speakers at a crowded public hearing praised Rome’s plan, which Rome said would produce 50 new full-time jobs, some part-time jobs and thousands of dollars to the city annually in property tax revenue.
Among those urging the City Council to grant the zone change to Rome have been Mayor Alex B. Morse and Kathleen G. Anderson, president of the Greater Holyoke Chamber of Commerce.
Gary Rome Hyundai currently is at 1000 Main St. here and has Rome said that business would stay open regardless of whether he is able to build a new one.
But some residents, with former city councilor Helen F. Norris as lead proponent, argued instead for the RM-20 zoning designation. They said auto dealerships like the proposals from Rome and Lavelle are incompatible with what they said is a mostly residential area.