Carmax stalls on Mooney Boulevard proposal

Visalia City Council narrowly votes to block the nation’s largest used car retailer from opening on Mooney

VISALIA – After testimony from local car dealers who pleaded with the Visalia City Council not to approve a “big box” car dealership’s proposed location on south Mooney Boulevard, the council voted 3-2 last week to deny the location.

“We would all love to have a location on Mooney across from Target,” said Ed Dena, local used car dealer. But a long-standing city policy has prohibited car dealers from locating there.

“The world has changed,” advised Visalia developer Harvey May who has a hand in the proposed project. “There is a reason why this project is 100% staff supported,” he pointed out, and many “regional retail stores no longer exist,” arguing that the site at Mooney and Visalia Parkway should be available for any car dealer who meets the specifications—not just Carmax.

He pointed out that Visalia has apparently changed its policy on grocery stores after the planning commission approved Aldi to open a location on South Mooney Boulevard when existing policy also prohibited grocers on Mooney.

Carmax officials suggested new tax dollars would come to Visalia but several council members scoffed at the idea since the area where the buyer lives gets the sales tax, not where the car is sold.

The bulk of the audience comments echoed a theme: “We support the local dealers.”

“I supported not allowing car dealers on Mooney 25 years ago and I support that tonight,” councilmember Greg Collins said.

Mayor Bob Link, who will be stepping down this fall, says he remembers when there was opposition to allowing development south of Packwood Creek and now  there is a successful shopping center there. He voted in favor of Carmax.

Councilmembers Brian Poochigian and Steve Nelsen made the difference after being convinced to support the Planning Commission denial a few weeks ago by the argument that it would be unfair to local dealers to make an exception for Carmax just because of their size. Phil Cox was in support of Carmax.

All council members said they wish Carmax would come to town to one of the approved sites like Plaza Drive.

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