Victorville To Let CarMax Operate Used Car Lot In Zone Set For Factory Direct Vehicle Saless

Seduced by the prospect of an influx of sales tax revenue from the retailing of big ticket items while overriding charges that it was engaging in spot zoning, the Victorville City Council last week approved CarMax locating a used car sales lot southeast of the intersection of Roy Rogers and Civic drives, at a plum spot adjacent to the city’s Auto Park at Valley Center.
The project involves the consolidation of five existing parcels to allow for the creation of two parcels totaling 4.76 acres, and the development of an approximately 7,600 square foot sales, service, and presentation building, as well as ancillary onsite operations including an approximately 900- square foot carwash and fueling service facility.
CarMax is a chain of used car dealers with over 200 physical locations located across the U.S. featuring roughly 50,000 vehicles which carries out both lot and online sales.
CarMax involves sales of vehicles with total individual mileages of between 4,000 miles and 100,000 miles, entailing elements of the used car industry that differ from the retailing of new vehicles, in particular allowing buyers to return their cars for a full refund within a week.
Since the dealers at Victorville’s Auto Park have traditionally engaged in the exclusive or near-exclusive sale of new vehicles, the ownerships of existing car dealerships in Victorville felt giving CarMax an opportunity to function within the city’s showcase for new car dealerships would constitute an unfair advantage for the used car retail giant.
The dealership is to be established on an undeveloped portion of the site immediately adjacent to existing vehicle sales facilities that include Ram Truck Center and Valley Hi Honda. The CarMax project is to comprise an approximately 7,600-square foot sales, service, and presentation building, as well as ancillary onsite operations including an approximately 900-square foot carwash and fueling service facility. To facilitate this development, the proposal included a specific plan amendment that will conditionally permit used vehicle sales within the Civic Commercial Land Use District, as well as the associated site plan, conditional use permit and parcel map.
The Civic Commercial Land Use District, encompassing 473 acres, is provided for under the Civic Center Community Sustainability Specific Plan, which was adopted by the city council in 2016.
Earlier this year and in November, when the CarMax proposal was first previewed by the Victorville City Council, the city’s auto dealers both individually and collectively made the case that approving the CarMax enterprise at the spot it had selected for its operations would constitute arbitrary and therefore discriminatory rezoning of a parcel of land within the limits of the overarching car dealership zone outside the legal bounds/accordance of the city’s comprehensive zoning plan, i.e., a practice that is referred to as spot zoning.
City officials who were backing CarMax’s proposal sought to blunt the spot-zoning accusation by noting that the property on which the CarMax lot was to be sited actually lies outside the city’s auto park, and was not therefore subject to the same restrictions. Furthermore, CarMax’s representatives maintain the company does not begrudge other dealerships being able to sell used cars from their lots, which have heretofore been restricted to selling new vehicles, and are amenable to all city commercial zones being opened to allow used car sales.
This week, the council showed itself to be unpersuaded by any arguments against allowing CarMax to set up shop at its chosen location, and voted 4-to-1, with Councilwoman Blanca Gomez dissenting, to certify the project’s final 28-page environmental impact, which concluded, “The city finds, based on the draft environmental impact report, the recirculated draft environmental impact report, final environmental impact report, and the whole of the record, that the proposed project will result in less than cumulatively considerable impacts related to irreversible environmental changes.” The draft environmental impact report was 67 pages and the recirculated draft environmental impact report went through several iterations.
Councilwoman Blanca Gomez indicated she had disagreements with environmental impact report’s conclusions.
In giving go-ahead to the project, the council further voted to adjust the city code conditionally allowing used car sales in the city’s civic commercial zones.
David Greiner, the owner of Greiner Buick GMC and one of the premier existing car dealers in Victorville, indicated he was willing to live with CarMax “as good neighbors” based on the city providing his company with “the type of relief from the zoning restrictions that we currently have,” meaning, essentially, that his dealership would be permitted to engage in used car sales as well.
On December 1, the council indicated it would revisit the city’s land-use restrictions in the Auto Park. In a staff report accompanying the agenda for the December 15 council meeting, City Planner Scott Webb wrote, “Due to the changing automobile market, as detailed in the discussion section of this report, staff supports accommodating the growing market of used automobile sales by conditionally allowing large format used car sales in the [city’s Auto Park District]. This change would give the growing used car industry access to larger lots within the Civic Commercial Land Use District in line with existing new vehicle sales facilities currently permitted in the Auto Park District. The CarMax operation would be located along Interstate 15 with access from Civic Drive and is adjacent to freeway access at Roy Rogers Drive. “
The council made short work of rejecting protests to the project lodged by the Southwest Regional Council of Carpenters, which has raised objections to the project in actuality because the project will not entail the construction of buildings beyond the 7,600-square foot showroom and sales/service building and 900-square foot carwash and fueling service facility, which its members would otherwise be involved in constructing. The union’s written protests are based upon what it is representing as shortcomings in the environmental impact report for the project. Pasadena-based Mitchell Tsai, representing the Southwest Regional Council of Carpenters, asserted that the project, as approved, violates the California Environmental Quality Act. After dwelling upon the temperature screening procedure to prevent those who might be infected with COVID-19 from being granted access to the car lot envisioned as being used at one of the entrances to the project site, Tsai concluded that this procedure was in some way inconsistent with the protocol approved by the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Carpenters International Training Fund for the protection of construction workers. Tsai also said that the environmental impact report was impermissibly vague in specifying “mitigation measure for paleontological resources” at the site. Tsai said the project violates the State of California’s planning and zoning law as well as the city’s general plan and that the project would result in significant and unmitigatable impacts on air quality and result in excessive greenhouse gas emissions.
Tsai wrote that the city “should seriously consider proposing that the applicant provide additional community benefits such as requiring local hire and use of a skilled and trained workforce to build the project” such as workers who have graduated from a state-approved apprenticeship training program. He did not explain how having local workers involved in the construction phase of the project would cure its environmental defects
City Planner Scott Webb said adequate response and refutation of the issues encapsulated by Tsai had already been provided. “These are restatements of incorrect assertions that have already been addressed in the document that’s presented to you today,” Webb said on December 15, when the council gave its approval to the project.
Webb was, unsurprisingly, supported in that position by Mark Ostoich, a lawyer representing CarMax. Ostoich opined that both Tsai and the Carpenters’ Union were “misusing the California Environmental Quality Act” in raising objections to the project.
Steve Hudak, representing CarMax, predicted that the company’s Victorville location would engage in $45 million to $60 million in annual sales, boosting the city’s annual sales tax revenue to $450,000 to $600,000. He said that there were already Victorville residents who were CarMax customers, and that they were spending their sales tax dollars at the CarMax site in Ontario.
“By approving this application, the city could already recapture about $250,000 in sales tax by having a CarMax in this marketplace,” Hudak said.
Webb said dispensing with restrictions on used auto sales in the district reserved for new vehicle sales was justifiable for economic reasons.
“Historically,” according to Webb, “overall sales of used cars relative to new cars has followed a predictable pattern, with the two running parallel with new car sales always on top. However, in recent years, used car sales have been on the rise while new car sales have remained relatively flat. Experts expect this trend to continue into the foreseeable future. Edmunds, a company that conducts quarterly studies on the sales and pricing trends of used cars, identified these changes in their third quarter 2019 press release and reiterated it in several press releases in 2020. Edmunds has also pointed out another significant detail, in that while the price gap between used and new cars continues to grow wider, used cars are also more expensive now than they have ever been. As one of the largest industries in America, auto sales are of relevance to any city, given the potential for tax revenue. In accordance with implementation measure of the land use element of the general plan, which states that the city should “periodically review or update the zoning ordinance to ensure it allows a wide array of commercial uses,” it is appropriate to periodically reassess the city’s land use standards to respond to industry changes. Such assessments allow the city to avoid preventable negative effects on the economy, such as loss of potential tax revenue, and to be in a position to benefit from the expansion of the used car market.”
-Mark Gutglueck

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