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Concerned comments on proposed car washes flood social media

Suds Deluxe Express Car Wash in Marble Falls

Suds Deluxe is one of two car washes planning a Marble Falls location, this one next to Walmart on U.S 281. Staff photo by Nathan Bush

Social media is awash with comments on the potential impact that two proposed car washes could have on the city of Marble Falls’ water supply. Most of the remarks on the Facebook page are negative. Some are asking why the city isn’t pulling the plug on the car washes: Tidal Wave Auto Spa, which plans to build at the corner of U.S. 281 and RR 1431, and Suds Deluxe, which will be located next to Walmart on U.S. 281.

“Let’s add another business that uses large amounts of water when we are already struggling with water availability,” a Facebook user posted about Tidal Wave Auto Spa.

While neither business has applied for permits, both have held pre-development meetings with Marble Falls Development Services officials, said department Director Kim Foutz.

“When someone expresses interest in development, we require them to come in and talk about what it is they’re planning on doing,” she said. “We talk about big-picture issues like utilities, zoning, streets, access, and things like that.”

Some social media commenters wondered why the city and the Marble Falls Economic Development Corp. are allowing more car washes to set up shop. Currently, about six washes are listed in search engine results for Marble Falls. 

Neither the city nor the EDC has the power to keep them out, said EDC Executive Director Christian Fletcher. He explained the EDC’s role in new business in the comment section on the Facebook page because he believes it is important for people to understand the process. 

“I made the post to clarify that we get thrown under the bus for a lot of stuff that we have nothing to do with,” he said. “I thought it was important to clarify what it is that we do and what we don’t do.”

The EDC acts as a liaison between the real estate community and the development community, Fletcher explained.

“That doesn’t mean that we’re involved in every deal — as was the case with the prospective car washes,” he said.

Foutz further clarified the city development department’s limited purview when deciding to approve proposed developments, whether residential or commercial.

“The staff doesn’t get to dictate or provide feedback about what we want or what we don’t want,” she said. “That is not our role.”

The department relies on zoning maps and the city’s development code to dictate its decisions.

“The first thing we look at is to see if it’s properly zoned or not,” she said. “If it’s properly zoned, which is set up from council policy, we look at the development code, which was revised and updated substantially in 2019. We look at that and all of the criteria that are outlined there. We go strictly by that. The code itself says what is allowed and what is not allowed.”

Although the city of Marble Falls is yet to receive timetables for construction on either project, Foutz said Suds Deluxe by Walmart will be forced to wait until the construction of the Petco pet store near the site is further along.

“There’s basic infrastructure that has to be completed before construction can start, such as sidewalks, entryways, and some of the internal circulation,” she said. “All of that has to be done before any development can start.”

As for the Tidal Wave Auto Spa planned to replace buildings currently occupied by Art of the Meal, 1005 N. Main St., and Shades of Sonora, 1009 N. Main St., floodplain issues stemming from the creek that runs behind the site might slow construction.

“We’re always looking at the floodplain and what (developers) can and cannot do,” Foutz said. “They have to meet all the criteria. We also implement LCRA’s requirements, and we look at the quality of discharge that comes out of a development, but that is dictated when the design comes in.” 

The site’s current buildings are grandfathered in as far as floodplain permit requirements. Any new construction would have to meet current requirements, Deputy City Manager Caleb Kraenzel told in May

As for the issue of how much water two new car washes would be pulling from the city’s system, according to recent studies, using a car wash rather than washing with a garden hose in the driveway actually saves water. The average flow rate for a professional car wash is 3 gallons per minute; a water hose uses 10 gallons per minute.

Also, many of the newer washes recycle water. 

“In this particular case, we’ve had discussions about recycling,” Foutz said. “The technology is out there now for significant recycling at car washes.”

Until the process is further along, neither the city nor the EDC will know what kind of car washes are intended. A call to TidalWave was not returned by this story’s publication deadline. No phone number was available for Suds Deluxe headquarters, but an email with questions was also not answered by deadline.

2 thoughts on “Concerned comments on proposed car washes flood social media

  1. Very interested to see more water recycling potential. IF we get more car washes, and it does seem as though the city’s hands are tied to some degree here due to current policies and zoning, we may as well work to see them run efficiently. I would argue that this would be beneficial across the board for new developments in one way or another.

  2. I’m FOR at least one additional full-service car wash. The only existing one in Marble Falls has increased their pricing and decreased their service. Competition is good for the consumer.

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