Monthaven Arts and Cultural Center. FILE

Hendersonville’s Board of Mayor and Aldermen on Tuesday voted to defer a request by the city’s only new car dealership to allow land along West Main Street to be used for a display lot after leaders from the Monthaven Arts and Cultural Center (MACC) spoke against the proposal.

Hallmark Hyundai, located at 1198 West Main Street, is requesting that the city add the use, “motor vehicle dealership,” to a 3.76-acre piece of property it is trying to purchase just east of its current location next to the Dodge’s Store. MACC leaders said they had hoped to one day buy the land for future expansion.

The property, comprised of three lots along West Main Street, is part of the Monthaven Place Preliminary Development Plan approved in 1997. Of the 61 acres approved in the plan, 33.7 are designated for residential use (where the Monthaven Park Apartments are located) and 27.5 acres are designated for commercial/retail use.

The three lots that the Hyundai dealership is requesting a use change for are currently designated for two restaurants and a bank, according to planning department documents. The dealership is proposing a car lot with 290 parking spaces and no buildings or structures on the property.

Tuesday’s BOMA meeting included a two-hour discussion about the benefits both the growing business and the arts center bring to the city, and ended with the hopes that the two entities would work out a compromise on the property.

Aldermen: City benefits from both arts center and car business

Located in Monthaven, an antebellum home just off Main Street owned by the city of Hendersonville, the MACC has doubled the size of its operating budget from $277,000 to more than $500,000 since 2019, MACC Chief Operating Officer John Pitcher told city leaders.

The center has brought world-class art exhibits and provides arts education and outreach to hundreds of students, he added.

Pitcher said the center had hoped to buy the land Hyundai was considering purchasing for an arts enrichment campus, but the recent coronavirus pandemic forced the suspension of its capital campaign.

More than 60,000 people have visited the center in the last two years, according to MACC Executive Director Cheryl Strichik. Strichik urged city leaders to turn down Hyundai’s proposal.

“Communities can be shaped by choice or they can be shaped by chance,” she said. “I’m asking you today to help our citizens create the kind of community we want.”

Hyundai Hallmark representatives Gary Dodson and David Andrews said they bought the 13-year-old dealership in September of 2020.

Despite having to close briefly due to delays with manufacturers, Dodson said the business has been thriving and hoped to both double the size of its shop as well as expand the space it has to display new merchandise.

“We are outgrowing the bounds of where we’re at right now,” he said.

Dodson said the company was trying to grow its entire business with the intention of beautifying the area. The lot would be heavily shrouded by trees and shrubbery and would improve the look of the area, he added.

“We’re not asking for a parking lot. This is a display of our new vehicles,” he said.

The change would bring $10,000 more a year to the city in property taxes and an estimated $1.8 million in sales tax, according to Dodson.

Andrews, who is chairman of the company, said the project represents a $7 million investment on behalf of the two partners.

Several aldermen said they saw the benefits of both organizations and urged the two to work out a compromise.

“My heart is racing right now,” said Ward 5 Alderman Jonathan Hayes. “I wonder if there might be some partnerships. I’m torn with this decision.”

Hyundai executives appealed to BOMA Tuesday after their request was effectively denied June 1 by the Hendersonville Planning Commission after its members failed to second a motion to approve the request.

Several aldermen criticized the planning body’s decision to not even vote on the request.

Ward 4 Alderman Steve Brown made a motion to defer the request back to the planning commission.

“I don’t know why there was a ‘no’ vote,” said Brown. Brown added he would like for the planning body to reconsider the request and report back to BOMA on their reasoning for approval or denial.

Ward 3 Alderman Arlene Cunningham agreed with Brown.

“I don’t think they did their due diligence,” said Cunningham. “I think that they did not do their job. Period. I’ve never seen anything like this in my 10 years.”

Ward 2 Alderman Lee Peterson, BOMA’s liaison on the planning commission, said the planning body works very diligently when considering requests that come before them.

“We really didn’t have much guidance on that vote,” he said.

Peterson later added, “We felt like we didn’t want to see another car lot in town.”

Ward 5 Alderman Rachel Collins, who is BOMA’s liaison to the arts council, suggested MACC step up their fundraising efforts.

“If this fails, this land is probably going to be developed,” she said. “If you want to buy this land you better do it soon. We can not hold this land on reserve for you.”

Brown’s motion to refer the issue back to the planning commission failed 7 to 6.

Compromise in the works

After that motion failed, Dodson and Andrews said Hyundai was open to negotiations with the MACC, offering to divide the property in half.

“We’re open to all conversations – absolutely,” replied Strichik.

City leaders voted unanimously to defer the request until the Aug. 10 BOMA meeting in order to give the two entities time to reach an agreement.