Carthage Planning Board discusses new car wash, short-term rentals

On Thursday, April 4, the Carthage Planning Board convened for a regular meeting and discussed two significant proposals: a new car wash and regulations for short-term rentals (STR).

The first major topic of discussion covered by the Planning Board was the construction of a new H2O of the Sandhills Car Wash. The building would be constructed adjacent to Cooper Ford off Highway 15-501 and share a preexisting entrance with the dealership. It would be open to the public and not limited to Cooper Ford customers. 

The current lot would require rezoning before construction could begin, so consultants from Rehtson Companies Inc., the company behind H2O, prepared a presentation that included renders and maps for the Planning Board.

H2O of the Sandhills Car Wash was compared to Tidal Wave in Aberdeen, sporting a conveyor belt pull-through system, spinning brushes, dryers, membership options, and bays with vacuum stalls.

Company representatives and consultants were present at the meeting to answer questions about the proposed plan.

Planning Board member David Norris asked how the car wash could have a positive effect on the community. “How many employees will be hired?” he asked. “Will our people run it?”

The representatives confirmed that the car wash would be attended during operation hours, requiring on-site employees. “At any given time on a shift, there will be five to six employees, [and] there’s three shifts a day from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. seven days a week,” confirmed one consultant.

A concerned citizen voiced worries about the impact the car wash would potentially have on traffic, citing that its location near Cooper Ford and the Moore County Solid Waste Division is already a problematic spot for traffic.

“We are coordinating with the North Carolina Department of Transportation (N.C. DOT) for this, and we pushed the entrance way back [on the Ford lot] to have a minimal impact on traffic backing up on 15-501,” explained one consultant who has been working with N.C. DOT. He clarified that the dual lanes have enough room to support approximately 20 cars and that there is an additional 200-300 feet in driveway length to prevent traffic from becoming an issue on the main road.

The representatives also clarified that “up to 75%” of water used at the car wash will be recycled and that there will be three underground tanks beneath the building to collect and reuse water.

The site plan was approved unanimously by the Carthage Planning Board and may move on to the next step in the process.

Following the presentation regarding the car wash, the board moved on to a discussion about STR, their place in the community, and how to allow them while keeping the best interest of Carthage in mind.

In November 2023, the Planning Board discussed an amendment proposal permitting STR Homestays within the Central Business District. Following a public hearing, the Board of Commissioners tasked Manager Emily Yopp with revising and enhancing the amendment to offer increased safeguards for residential areas. Additionally, the Board of Commissioners had requested consideration of implementing an “authorized representative” requirement. Yopp subsequently instructed Town Planner Jennifer Hunt and the town’s legal counsel to review the matter further.

While the majority of the Planning Board was not directly opposed to the idea of STR being operated in Carthage, they did feel that restrictions should be put in place to hold property owners accountable for the condition and use of their properties and to establish safeguards that allow for code enforcement.

As such, the Carthage Planning staff revised the zoning ordinance language for STR. This also refined the definitions and ordinances for Boarding & Rooming Houses, Bed & Breakfasts, and Homestays.

Hunt worked with the town attorneys to determine the best course of action regarding STR. “We don’t really have a large hotel here; if someone’s going to be staying in town for a night or a week, then we want people to stay where they can walk, shop, eat, and really visit Carthage,” said Hunt. “The goal for me as a planner is to get people to come here to enjoy, to actually visit Carthage and not just come for the courthouse.”

Initially, the plan proposed that in order to operate a STR, the property owner must live within Carthage town limits or within three miles of Carthage ETJ (Extraterritorial Jurisdiction), or they may have an “authorized representative” who meets these parameters.

Much of the board was not in favor of the idea of authorized representatives, claiming that its inclusion provided too much room to be abused. Planning Board Member Bill Smyth explained that anyone could open a business claiming to be a property manager for out-of-state “investors” and, therefore, manage multiple properties, resulting in an overabundance of STR.

As such, the board agreed that the wording should be refined to limit STR solely to individuals with a permanent address in the Carthage community.

Chair Elizabeth Futrell made a motion to approve, with the addition of striking the “authorized representative” from the text.

Applying the vision from Carthage’s Land Use Plan, Futrell noted, “I think this achieves our goal of preserving and celebrating small-town community roots while also serving as coordinated, intentional, and well-planned growth and development.”

Feature photo: Rendering of the proposed H2O of the Sandhills Car Wash. Photo provided by Carthage Planning Board. 

~Written by Sandhills Sentinel Copy Editor Abegail Murphy. 

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