A luxury-line automobile dealership that had been expected to open in Whitehall has opted instead to open the dealership in the Easton area.
Whitehall City Council members learned about Infiniti of Columbus' change of plans during their Oct. 23 meeting.
"It's a shocker," councilman Wes Kantor said. "Everyone here was told Infiniti of Columbus was opening in Whitehall."
Whitehall development director Zach Woodruff invited Dan Schmidt, of Infiniti's JDS Co. holding company, to share the business decision with council members.
Woodruff said after the meeting that the announcement was "pre-emptive" and designed to prevent council members from being caught off guard by hearing about it from other sources.
Council on Aug. 7 had approved a special permit for the sale of new and used vehicles for an Infiniti of Columbus dealership at 5250 E. Main St., on the north side of East Main, near Fairway Boulevard and I-270.
Instead, an Infiniti subsidiary will open there.
"Was it our preference that the dealership be Infiniti of Columbus?" he said. "Of course, but we are still excited to have a development at a site that has been vacant for about five years."
The subsidiary dealership will open by the end of the year under the name National Road Automotive. Rather than exclusively selling new and used Infiniti vehicles, however, National Road Automotive's inventory will include a variety of makes and models.
Councilman Bob Bailey said although he's disappointed in the change of direction, he's pleased that the site still would have a commercial use, with a line of cars Schmidt said "suits the median income" of the area.
Council members questioned whether the change in operation would require another application for a special permit, but Woodruff said the special permit had been issued for the sale of new and used automobiles and remained valid as the parent owner and operator had not changed.
Schmidt said the decision to relocate the new dealership had been made at the corporate level, and he expected the inventory of used cars at National Road Automotive to include trade-ins of Infiniti vehicles and others at the Easton-area Infiniti of Columbus.