Despite the property being in a flood zone and on property the town has been eyeing to change into green space, South Boston Town Council on Monday night gave a prospective business owner the green light to open a car wash in a vacant building in Riverdale.
Council unanimously voted to conditionally zone the property from 1071-1077 Huell Matthews Highway from DR-Dan River District to B-2 General Business District to allow the opening of the car wash. Councilman Bill Snead made the motion, and councilman Winston Harrell seconded the motion to approve the zoning request.
The car wash is located in a zone that frequently floods, prompting a discussion among council members about the best use for the property. But council ultimately decided for now, it would be better to have a business owner fix up the property rather than risking the vacant property becoming a nuisance.
Ricky Parker, prospective owner of “Ricky’s Car Wash,” told council he plans to invest about $20,000 into the car wash and another building on the property that will be used as a waiting area and looks forward to fixing up the property.
“I’m ready to take it on and make it a better place for South Boston,” Parker said. “Right now, it’s an eyesore.”
The Roxboro, North Carolina, businessman shared the improvement plans he had for the building — painting it inside and out, installing a new facade, repairing the asphalt and seal coating the parking lot. He said the car wash would be clean with an updated but simple look, and he plans to keep concrete flooring in the building rather than installing carpeting because of the frequent flooding.
“Since I’ve been looking at the property, it’s flooded twice,” Parker said. “I’m not going into this blindly. I’m prepared to suffer through any flooding.”
Town manager Tom Raab told council the town applied for grant funding from FEMA in May 2019 to get the properties in the Dan River District mitigated, since they are in a flood plain. The town has not yet received the grant funding.
Councilman Michael Byrd asked how the plans that the town already had for the property on Huell Matthews Highway would affect Parker’s plans for his business.
“Are we putting the cart before the horse?” Byrd asked. “Are we just transferring property that’s going to be sold anyway until the FEMA money comes in?”
Parker replied that he was in real estate, and while he wants to operate a business on the property, he would be willing to sell the property if necessary.
Raab added, “We wanted green space (at this property), but I think what Parker plans to do is going to improve the property, so it’s a catch-22.”
The property that once functioned as a car wash has six existing car wash bays that were used as self-service. Parker said his initial plans for Ricky’s Car Wash are to have only hand wash and detailing services in some of the existing bays. Later, Parker said he plans to bring at least three self-service bays into operation.
Parker said he is aware that South Boston already has several car wash businesses, but Ricky’s Car Wash will be unique because he will have uniformed employees greeting every customer and inspecting each car before it leaves the car wash to make sure the wash job is well done.
“Our uniformed employees are going to say this is a professional business,” Parker said. He added, “My business is going to be family-oriented. We’re going to have free Wi-Fi. We’ll have some seating outside under large umbrellas. Hang out with friends and family while you get your car washed.”
Parker’s business plan is to keep Ricky’s Car Wash open during regular business hours six days a week and stay open late one day per week, possibly Friday for those wishing to get their car washed going into the weekend.