Clarksville set to get auto park 3 dealerships have bought lots

7 are envisioned for 45-acre development

January 04, 1996|By Laura Barnhardt | Laura Barnhardt,CONTRIBUTING WRITER

In a matter of months, Clarksville will have its first major planned commercial complex -- the Howard County Auto Sales Park -- at the new interchange of Routes 108 and 32.

Plans call for seven dealerships selling as many as 12 brands of cars and trucks in the 45-acre auto park owned by 108 Limited Partnership, the seven-partner group that bought the property in 1992.

Such auto parks are gaining popularity nationwide as a way to concentrate a variety of dealerships in one location.

The auto park's completion date depends on commitments from dealers in addition to the three that have bought space there. The three are:

* Win Kelly Chevrolet Geo, which relocated in March from Hall Shop Road, about three miles away in more rural Clarksville, to its 31,000-square-foot facility in the park.

* Shelly Warsaw, owner of Chrysler-Plymouth West in Catonsville, who has purchased 4 acres and plans a June or July opening of the 31,000-square-foot Shelly Warsaw Chrysler-Plymouth Jeep and Eagle dealership.

* Jacob M. Antwerpen, president of Antwerpen Toyota Village, who broke ground three weeks ago on his 6 acres for a 33,000-square-foot facility, where he may sell other brands of cars, too. His leased showroom on Route 108 will be put on the market, along with the offices and storage facilities that he owns.

Kevin Bell, president of Win Kelly Chevrolet and manager of the park, said he is talking with several more dealers.

He said he doesn't expect to have much trouble filling the park.

The reasons he gave are completion of the Routes 32 and 108 interchange at the end of this month; the added customer base from the construction of Columbia's 10th village, River Hill; and the success of the Montgomery Auto Sales Park in Silver Spring.

Mr. Antwerpen agreed. "It's an up-and-coming area. There's a tremendous customer base in the Columbia-Clarksville area," he said.

"Auto parks are the way of the future. This is how people buy cars now. It's very convenient for the customer and good for the dealer-operator, too."

Mr. Bell said the 166 auto-park dealers nationwide are sharing advertising costs and cooperating in other ways. He said the dealers in the Clarksville park will form an association to address suchissues.

Joseph Rutter, county director of planning and zoning, said the community also will benefit from such a concentrated, planned development.

"I would hope that the community would realize that since it's a major intersection, commercial development is inevitable," he said. "At least it's confined to an intersection and not stripped all the way to Homewood Road."

Citizens National Bank has bought a small lot in front of the auto park.

Mr. Rutter said that having a concentrated commercial area is preferable to strip commercial developments, which often end up vacant within a few years.

The only problem the planners expect is some traffic congestion in the Route 108 corridor.

The half-mile stretch leading to and through the new interchange will have six traffic lights. In addition to Clarksville travelers, commuters to Montgomery County use the route.

A plan to construct a Route 108 business route and a Clarksville bypass around the auto-park site was defeated by the County Council in 1988.

Frank B. Cockrell, who has owned a 98-acre grain farm behind the auto-park site since 1959, opposed the bypass plan. He and other residents who own land designated for agricultural preservation believed that the road would create even more development in rural Clarksville.

"We're concerned that [plans for the area] not be expanded beyond the present plan," said Mr. Cockrell.

He said that as long as the buffer between the commercial property and theirs is maintained and agreements about soil erosion control are met, the residents do not expect problems with the auto park.

Jane and Ed Holweck's 50-acre horse-breeding farm overlooks the auto park, but the buffer appears adequate so far, the couple said.

"I can't let [the commercial development of Clarksville] bother me," Ms. Holweck said.

"You have to live with what you got. And the auto park has been very nice to us.

"And we still have nice rural views on three sides."

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