When Bob Shullman, owner of the property at 527 Bedford Road (Route 117) in Bedford Hills, arrived Wednesday morning to pick up the keys from his tenant, whose lease expired that day, he was out of luck.
His tenant, Mark Curtis, owner of Splash Car Wash, refused to leave. So Shullman, the owner of Russell Speeders Car Wash—who said he was ready to begin operations there immediately—presented Curtis with a petition to evict him from the property in the presence of a Bedford police officer.
Curtis, who received approvals from Bedford planners to construct a new Splash car wash down the road after more than a year of discussions, says he has good reasons for staying put.
"I planned to have our site constructed by now, so that our wonderful client base would have no lapse in service. But I have reasons to believe that the prolonged approval process we went through was because of interference from Russell Speeders," he said in a phone interview Wednesday.
Curtis said his goal is to remain where they are only until the new site is ready at a former Carvel Ice Cream site at 570 North Bedford Road, which he estimated to take about six months.
Splash Car Wash has operated at its current site for 18 years, in a lease with the property from the Schullman family that expired April 30. Shullman said Curtis has had plenty of time to prepare for the lease expiration.
"He's known for ten years this lease would expire," said Shullman via phone Thursday afternoon. "I've been trying for three months to meet with him to plan the transition. Mr. Curtis can say what he wants but the fact is, he is squatting on our property."
The issue is now in the court's hands, Shullman said. "We're the landlord, we have property rights and legally they are a holdover so we need to go to court to evict them."
Shullman said the issue went beyond eviction. "We plan to sue for damages. We had a schedule, and employees and vendors and equipment ready to go."
When asked what specific "interference" from Russell Speeders affected his construction plans, Curtis said he had reasons to believe the his landlord supported the neighbors of his new location—and their hired experts—in voicing strong opposition and in submitting negative letters to the press. Their campaign was a breach of contract and resulted in delays that prevented them from opening before his lease expired, according to Curtis.
"We took over a completely dilapidated site in Bedford Hills—we cleaned it up and put in a septic system. Our new site is a mess, and we thought the neighbors would embrace us moving there and improving it. The opposite happened. And we believe we have been injured by their behavior," he said.
Letters written by residents of Valerio Court have objected to the site plans, citing multiple traffic, safety and noise concerns if the onetime soft-ice cream sales site becomes a high-volume car wash.
Curtis said the opposition was difficult to experience.
"We've been operating in Bedford Hills for 18 years and been a great tenant. We've built a great business and have donated about $100,000 to local causes. I have employees who have been here for all 18 years. We've tried really hard to do the right thing and be good citizens in this town. And I'd like to continue serving them for a long time to come."
Shullman said the court hearing will take place on May 13 in Bedford Town Court.
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