EnvironmentThe Examiner

Environmental Concerns Over High-End Car Wash Proposal in Armonk

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North Castle officials appeared hesitant about a recent request for a zoning text change that would permit a car wash within the Planned Light Industrial District on Business Park Drive in Armonk.

Representatives for Basis Industrial Acquisitions LLC appeared before the Town Board and Planning Board late last month in hopes of convincing the boards to allow a car wash as the principal use at 125 Business Park Drive, a 3.7-acre property. The roughly 6,900-square foot structure would include a single-lane car wash with an accessory retail space and offices.

But concerns were raised by members of both boards that the car wash could pose a threat environmentally, with the possibility of detergents containing PFAS or other chemicals. Most of the structure, as currently proposed, would be built within a wetland buffer and the 100-year floodplain.

“The environmental concerns is something we really need to think about,” said Councilwoman Barbara DiGiacinto during the Town Board’s Oct. 25 meeting. “Obviously, you’re going to do everything in your power that you’re not going to do damage to the environment. Nonetheless, accidents do happen and I think we can put that in the forefront for our consideration.”

Two nights earlier, Planning Board members also questioned whether a car wash would be compatible with the existing uses on Business Park Drive, including personal service operations such as Equinox Gym and White Plains Hospital medical offices.

The Planning Board wondered whether it could spur other automotive-type businesses to move there. Planners were also worried that a car wash could be too intensive a use for the site.

Anthony Scavo, chief operating officer for Basis Industrial, said the idea for proposing the business is to bring what would be a high-end car wash to Armonk. The closest car wash is Splash in Bedford Hills, and there are about 44,000 people living within a five-mile radius or the site, he said.

The operation would have a system that would recycle 92 percent of the water used, Scavo said. Plus, he would test for PFAS and other chemicals.

With the help of a consultant to project how many cars might visit the car wash, it was estimated that after about three years it could reach a maximum of 1,000 cars a month, which should allay fears that it would be too intensive a use, Scavo said. For a business that would be open eight or nine hours a day for six days a week, that would amount to five to seven cars an hour. There is room for up to 11 cars to que on the property, he said.

There would also be spaces with two vacuum cleaners for car owners to clean the inside of their vehicles on their own.

“I think that if we can appropriately mitigate all the things that we’re talking about here, then I think this is a really great service for the town,” Scavo said.

The top package would cost about $50, with several other less expensive options available for lower prices at $5 increments.

The Westchester County Planning Board, in its comments last month, expressed additional environmental concerns. In an Oct. 10 letter from county Planning Commissioner Blanca Lopez, Westchester planners want to see the town require a stormwater pollution prevention plan from the applicant because the building would be located within the floodplain and the wetland buffer. Without that plan, there is the threat of runoff into a couple of watercourses.

“We are especially concerned about the nature of the car wash use on this site, as wastewater would need to be tightly controlled and monitored so it does not enter the wetland, and subsequently the Wampus Brook and Byram River,” Lopez wrote in her correspondence to the town.

The county also called 21 parking spaces at the site “excessive,” even though there would be a retail component that would sell items like car fresheners and other merchandise for a vehicle’s interior, plus snacks and drinks. With 21 spaces, it would be just over double the 10 spaces that are required.

Meanwhile, two nearby property owners questioned the town’s consideration of the project. Patrick McCarthy, representing the owner of 130 Business Park Drive, said the potential for it to have a negative impact is real.

“We can talk about average numbers and these are interesting if the business is successful, but really, when you’re talking about 11 cars, it wouldn’t take an extraordinary event for backups off the property onto Business Park Drive, which could be a disaster to us, deliveries to our company and for our employees, our tenants, our clientele and our guests,” McCarthy said. “That could impose a burden on us.”

Joseph Gellert, the owner of 111 Business Park Drive, quizzed the Town Board on why it threatened him with eminent domain several years ago when he owned 125 Business Park Drive, forcing him to sell the property, but is now considering a questionable use.

Gellert said he had bought the adjacent parcel because 111 Business Park Drive is at or near capacity and he wanted to expand. Officials thought at the time it might have needed an additional well that was on the property, but later discovered it didn’t.

“I have a very bad feeling about this, and I was told I shouldn’t do this and now you’re going ahead and you’re going to put this monstrosity next to my property?” he asked.

Supervisor Michael Schiliro said what is before the town is a proposal and there is no guarantee the car wash will be approved, especially with the environmental issues, including the possibility of PFAS.

“We understand 92 percent of (the water) is going to be recycled, etc., but that’s a big piece of it,” he said.

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