In December of 2017, to allow a dealership to sell used vehicles in a zoning area that didn’t allow those kinds of sales, the city changed an entire chapter of its zoning code.
“This is a citywide text amendment [allowing this type of use in other parts of the city]. You can’t just have spot zoning,” said Lamar Fisher. He was mayor at the time and now serves on the county commission.
Fisher, Mayor Rex Hardin and Commissioner Beverly Perkins voted in favor of the changes. Vice Mayor Barry Moss voted no. Michael Sobel, now one of The New Pelican’s publishers and then a commissioner, also voted no.
Without the zoning amendment, the dealership, Avis Pompano Beach, 1150 S. Federal Hwy., could not have been opened in the B-3 zoning where used car sales are prohibited.
Also opposing the controversial zoning change was Commissioner Rhonda Eaton, a member of the planning and zoning board at that time, and the Community Redevelopment Agency [CRA]. According to minutes of the Aug. 23, 2017 planning board meeting, Eaton said Federal Highway is “plagued” by car dealerships and “this will only make the problem worse.”
Sobel cited a Federal Highway study that advised against used car dealerships along that corridor. “This is contrary to all the visions of smart growth we’ve worked so hard to achieve and it’s taking one giant step backwards.”
Avis Pompano Beach is not located within the CRA but CRA officials objected because the original proposal would have allowed similar dealerships to open within its boundaries. The final amendment prohibits that. CRA officials claimed it was “not compatible with CRA redevelopment goals and urban design principles.”
When Sobel said that the dealer had the option to open in other locations without the change, Rod Feiner, the attorney who represented the dealership, said the city would benefit from the zoning change. In the past, Feiner has also represented the city on zoning matters.
Feiner touted Avis Pompano Beach’s plans to bring in quality vehicles, which he said were well maintained and actually closer to new. “They’re very much the equivalent of a new car . . . it really is new cars.”
Moss rejected Feiner’s attempt to repackage used cars as new.
“A used car is a used car,” he said.
Feiner also promised, and the zoning code requires, that each vehicle would be no older than two years and have less than 35,000 miles on its odometer.
Moss expressed concern that Feiner’s clients wouldn’t live up to their promises.
“If everybody did what they promised us they would do, we wouldn’t need to have a code compliance department,” said Moss. “Because there is what is said and there is what is done. And that concerns me.”
Ensuring compliance, said Feiner, would be a simple matter for the city.
But since the zoning change, obeyance and enforcement of the requirement appears non-existent. Multiple reviews of the Avis Pompano Beach website by The New Pelican showed that vehicles with more than 35,000 miles are available for sale.
During the first review on June 1, 18 out of 70 cars listed at Avis Pompano Beach, 1150 S. Federal Hwy., had been driven more than 35,000 miles; one had more than 66,000 miles. The company does appear to be following the requirement that all its vehicles are no more than two model years old.
When asked about the requirement, the dealership’s general manager said he had no idea there were any restrictions.
“You’re telling me something new that I’ve never heard,” said Mark Cohen, general manager of Avis Pompano Beach. “That would be strange, if that’s what you’re saying.” He explained that most cars taken out of the rental fleet average around 35,000 miles, so it wouldn’t make sense to agree to that rule.
Kevin Daly, of Daly Real Estate, which owns the dealership, said, “I couldn’t speak to that” when asked about the mileage.
Hardin told The New Pelican in a June 11 email that the city’s code compliance office became aware of the mileage issue and visited Avis.
“The local representatives were unaware of the ordinance requirements and quickly took action to come into compliance,” Hardin said. “That is an ideal result from code compliance activities. Code compliance, who is now busy with COVID-19 enforcement, will continue to monitor the situation to ensure continued compliance by the business, which has been very cooperative.”
But another review of the company website on June 12 showed there were still three cars over the 35,000 limit. One was listed at 47,676. On June 16, The New Pelican spoke with an employee about the cars. He said two had been sold but one, a Dodge Challenger with 38,503 miles, was still on the lot.
Also discussed in 2017 were plans for a remodeled showroom. Feiner said Avis would look like a new dealership and briefly held up a rendering that he said was in the agenda backup.
But the rendering is not in the meeting’s documents [available on the city website] and no renovation work seems to have been done.
The New Pelican requested a list of building permits from the city, pertaining to the dealership, and seven were provided – submitted after the new owners took over. All but two permits were expired, voided or withdrawn. The two that were approved were for a new sign and electrical work.