Under the vagaries of Forest Park’s arcane zoning laws — most old, tightly-built towns have arcane zoning laws — building a new, amped-up car wash on the exact site of a former car wash on Harlem Avenue was easy. The new Crystal Car Wash, built at a reported cost of $5 million, was grandfathered in. That, even though the new venture was far different — modern, sleek and loaded with free vacuums — than what it replaced.
While the new car wash has seemingly been popular with those of us with dirty cars, it has gone over badly with immediate neighbors who share an alley, and the vacuum noise, with each other.
Now though, Neil Rembos, the owner of the car wash and a civically engaged entrepreneur, has plans to expand the car wash across Lexington Street. That’s good news if you’re ready to see yet another derelict Harlem Avenue single family house being bulldozed. Count us in on that. It’s bad news if the vacuum noise is already infiltrating your home life. And it is interesting because building a car wash expansion on the site of a house is not grandfathered in and will require Crystal Car Wash to make its case to Forest Park’s zoning board. That public process also will allow neighbors to further organize and raise their objections in a public meeting.
The zoning board process could force serious conversations between Rembos and his neighbors on what steps could be taken to mitigate the noise. Some sort of sound barrier in the form of a fence? Change the hours of operation? Charge for vacuums? Not our area of expertise. But the village undoubtedly has a role here as some combination of staff, zoning board volunteers, and the village council needs to mediate these discussions.
Great to see this car wash invest in Forest Park. Great to see them expand and knock down a decrepit house. But neighbors have rights, too, and incessant noise is a real burden.