Despite the protests of neighbors, the Culpeper Town Council voted 5-3 Tuesday night to allow the expansion of a popular car wash on the Sperryville Pike.
Attorney Andy Gayheart, speaking for owners Tom Boyd and Steve Corbin, said the expansion, from a two-bay to a four-bay operation, would alleviate the "stacking" of vehicles on adjacent McDaniel Street during peak times.
The congestion caused by that stacking was one of the chief complaints of nearby residents who also complained of noise from those gathering at the facility during late-night hours.
Councilman Keith Price, who made the motion to approve the request, agreed that expansion would alleviate stacking.
"If we approve it we can leave the neighborhood in better condition," Price said, adding that the adjacent strip mall is likely as much a source for noise as is the car wash.
Preston Hawkins, who lives behind the car wash on McDaniel Street, told the council that lights from the existing facility are so bad that he could walk around inside his home at night "with none of my lights on."
Mayor Mike Olinger asked Gayheart and Boyd if it would be possible to redirect the flood light in the rear of the car wash so that it didn't shine in Hawkins' windows and they agreed to make an adjustment.
Boyd, however, balked at Olinger's suggestion that the facility be closed after 10 or 11 p.m.
"Why me?" he asked, reminding the mayor that all other car washes in town are allowed to remain open 24 hours per day.
He added that security, not increased revenue, was the reason the facility remains open. The car wash averages only about two customers per night between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m., according to Gayheart.
"You're just inviting trouble when you leave that [place] dark," Boyd said, adding that the town police, when reviewing the site plan, said the car wash was not an after-hours gathering spot.
One noise-reduction proffer included in the expansion plan, which was unanimously approved in July by the town Planning Commission, is to not allow vacuums to operate after 10 p.m.
Meghan Taylor, Frank Reaves and Jon Russell voted against the expansion plan while David Lochridge, who operates a business in the adjacent strip mall, abstained.
In other action, the council voted to hold public forums to allow citizens to speak at committee meetings, and to develop a policy concerning the possibility of town employees being elected to council.