A small business owner who has been working to open a new car wash at the site of a vacant roller rink in Escondido said city leaders are changing the rules mid-project.
City leaders in Escondido approved a 45-day moratorium on building new car wash businesses Wednesday.
That's tough news for Neil Capin. He's in the process of opening a new car wash at the site of the Ups and Downs skating rink near Mission Avenue and Center City.
He said has spent an estimated $100,000 and worked for more than a year to meet stipulations from the city ranging from landscaping, sound walls, building positioning, and decor.
He expected to receive approval to open but instead, city officials voted unanimously to hit the pause button and begin a conditional use permit process.
“I’m not sure what else we could do,” Capin said.
“We don’t know what the playing field is or what the rules are,” he said about the business approval process in Escondido. “How can you plan for that?”
Before the vote, city councilmembers said the focus for the city should be on a variety of businesses as well as high-paying jobs.
Currently, there are 29 car washes in downtown Escondido.
The conditional use permit (CUP) process is in the best interest of the downtown businesses and the applicant, Mayor Sam Abed said.
Several councilmembers spoke at the meeting and discussed being fair to Capin while also limiting the types of businesses in the community.
"I have a problem telling this guy that after almost a year, 'You know we told you it was ok and everything was alright but we just changed our mind.' That's not going to resonate well in the business community," said Councilmember Ed Gallo (District 1).
The building Capin is working to convert sat vacant for years, he told the council.
He believes there is high traffic in Escondido and an underserved community – perfect for his business.
City planners expect more than 1,000 housing units to be created in the downtown area in the next few years, Abed said.
He said planners need to examine how many different services will be available to those incoming residents.
However, Abed said the city has an over-concentration of car washes in the downtown area.
“We don’t need an over-concentration of any businesses because that will not serve the community’s needs,” Abed said.
Capin said the city could write CUP standards any way they want. He's hoping for the best outcome - that the city grandfathers his project through.