Harvey Davis has been fighting City Hall for years over his garage, which the city wants to seize by eminent domain as the site for a transportation hub east of downtown.
Now he's trying to move the garage to a new lot, and he's getting ready for another fight with the city — this time over whether his land in the southwestern part of the city can be zoned for a business or not.
City planners have said "not."
The land near Stratford and Clemmonsville roads is not surrounded by much — a business on one side, open land on the other. A few homes are nearby. It is less than a mile from a shopping center and not far from Hanes Mall Boulevard, one of the busiest shopping areas of the city.
Paul Norby, director of the City-County Planning Department, said planners advised against rezoning the land for Davis' new garage because they do not want commercial development to extend down Stratford Road.
"We've got a pretty sizable commercial strip on Stratford already, basically from Business 40 all the way past I-40," Norby said. "We don't need to be setting up other commercial (development)."
The question is scheduled for debate at Thursday's City-County Planning Board meeting.
Davis' son, Chris Davis, said the family plans to argue that the land, which is currently zoned residential, would make a good spot for a garage and repair shop. The land is also near the end of the proposed beltway, which is a still-far-off plan at this point but which someday would bring traffic to that part of the city.
Chris Davis said the future highway makes the land a bad location for apartments or houses.
"It's not a feasible place to put residential," he said. "And we border another commercial property there. There's already a business property on the other side of us."
The zoning issue is the latest in a string of problems the Davises have had with the city.
City officials said years ago that they wanted to turn the current Davis Garage, on Excelsior Street near Winston-Salem State University, into a transportation hub. The building, built in 1926, was for years a train depot called Union Station. Harvey Davis bought the building in 1975, when it was on the verge of being demolished. Train tracks still run by the building.
City officials first approached Harvey Davis about buying the building in 2004, when the city won a $1.3 million federal transportation grant. City officials have said the federal government would consider connecting Winston-Salem to high-speed rail lines only if the city has a potential transportation hub where the lines would pass. Davis Garage, they hope, would become that hub.
City officials filed for eminent domain over the garage in December. Under the terms laid out in the filing, Winston-Salem would pay Harvey Davis $681,900 for the building and would pay to move Davis' auto-repair shop to a new location. Davis has 120 days to appeal the eminent domain filing.
The City-County Planning Board could vote Thursday to recommend that the land be zoned for a garage. The final decision, though, rests with the Winston-Salem City Council, which likely would not consider the request until next month at the earliest.
"It would be really disappointing to ultimately hit a wall there and not get zoned," Chris Davis said.