TABLED UNTIL JUNE 5th: Iron Hill Brewery at the Lower Merion Board of Commissioners

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2013-06-05 7:15 pm
2013-06-05 11:59 pm
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Iron Hill Brewery liquor license transfer vote tabled again in Lower Merion
Published: Thursday, May 02, 2013
By Cheryl Allison Main Line Media News

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At Iron Hill Brewery’s request, the Lower Merion Township Board of Commissioners tonight tabled action on a liquor license transfer for a 10,000-square-foot restaurant at Ardmore Plaza Shopping Center.

The postponement is the second in recent weeks on the application, which has sparked controversy in the residential neighborhoods near the shopping center on Greenfield Avenue....Rogan said a special meeting of the board will be scheduled for June 5, at which time commissioners would take additional public comment on the application and vote on the request.

Commissioner Steven Lindner, whose ward includes the neighborhood in South Ardmore, said the restaurant owners want more time to continue working with the community to address concerns about traffic, inadequate parking, noise and potential late-night operations.

With action tabled for the night, Rogan encouraged citizens to speak at the June meeting, but said she would take public comment.

A group of residents, including the pastors of three local churches, rose together to address the board, noting concerns both about safety on neighborhood streets and a concentration of alcohol-related businesses within an area of less than one block.

Iron Hill tabled again. It is easy to feel sorry for the applicant Iron Hill Brewery. After being courted by Lower Merion Township for seven years, and finally settling on a location, part of South Ardmore has erupted negatively.

People still think if community leaders like Maryam Philips, Steve Lindner, and Nahjee Grant had let their people know as soon as they knew this was happening(their terminology - it is how they refer to the residents - "their people" ) this wouldn't be so heated and so ugly.

Yes ugly. Many have seen what has been posted on places like Lower Merion Community Network's page on Facebook. It is only out of respect to the board's creator that comments from there have not been posted. It does nothing to foment this ugliness, does it?

It is easy to be torn here. Many have seen how Iron Hill co-exisits with neighbors, have seen how they become respected community partners, employ locally. Ardmore would be quite lucky to get them, and in the end who will not be in the least surprised or blame them if they take a walk? After all who the hell wants to get treated like this when they walk into a community ready to spend millions?

It is hard to say anything about this part of Ardmore, isn't it? Isn't it true when you do, you can be called some pretty ugly names for stating an opinion? Get blamed for decades old issues you did not cause?

Well opinion is ok and who remembers many times in recent past caring people from other parts of the community came to this part of Ardmore with issues affecting Ardmore? And wished this part of Ardmore had participated in community discussion?

Last night the pastors who spoke to the commissioners were reported in Main Line Media News as saying they had concerns about businesses that sold liquor, cars, traffic, pedestrian safety, and the car dealerships using neighborhoods as test driving strips strips, correct?

So let us break this down, ok?

There has been a liquor store there for YEARS, right? Have there not been corner bars and private clubs throughout South Ardmore for decades? Are all the clubs which serve liquor gone? Why is a beer store and liquor store o.k. and an Iron Hill isn't?

And the traffic and pedestrian safety? Why is it they have not come forward before about these issues? Why hasn't their commissioner Steve Lindner brought this forward before?

As for the car dealerships, can it be said every car dealership in Lower Merion Township does this crap and Lower Merion does nothing about it? And I mean every car dealership because even the farthest west car dealership, Algar Ferrari under new ownership has had complaints made against them recently for test driving sports cars at high rates of speed in neighboring Radnor Township haven't they?

But what kind of gets to people here is a LOT of the issues these people are laying at the feet of Iron Hill are pre-exisiting so doesn't that make this Lower Merion Township's fault? Could Lower Merion's issues with traffic, parking, and pedestrian safety as in not addressing them often enough with actual solutions now affecting their ability to attract businesses to certain parts of the township including Ardmore?

If people in these neighborhoods are worried now, what happens when the Dranoff project takes the Cricket Lot? Or will that not matter because it won't directly impact these residents protesting Iron Hill?

If these residents don't want Iron Hill. What do they want? And who is to pay for it? Those are fair questions. Most wish these folks would be more active participants in things, instead of just this. As in consistent community participation versus issue occasional single issue based community participation? This part of Ardmore is not a stand-alone town, they are part of a larger pie as in the totality of Ardmore and Lower Merion.

Whatever. It is to be expected some ugly names will be verbalized for having this opinion, but people as in ALL people should be able to discuss this . Can it be said the ugly smokescreen and selective disenfranchisement and whatnot here will hurt Ardmore in the end? That will affect small businesses, large businesses, and even the residents protesting Iron Hill?

Why does the Ardmore of today always have to pay for the Ardmore of 50 and more years ago? In the end what is achieved by keeping old hurts, old wounds, old issues alive? Why can there never be ONE Ardmore?

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UPDATEIron Hill has been tabled until May 1, 2013 as per my sources. And is it true Iron Hill has also sent a letter to someone stating they are possibly re-evaluating Ardmore? If so, way to go Ardmore Progressive, Maryam Phillips, Steve Lindner, Nahjee Grant, right? Sign me disgusted by this news.
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I will preface what I am about to write with I no longer live in Lower Merion, so at the end of the day I can't see this from my window. But when I see and hear about something so wrong something should be said.

Iron Hill Brewery is up on the LMT agenda for this evening. If you support an Iron Hill coming to Ardmore (they are incidentally, popular and well loved in basically every community they enter), you should take the time to go to this meeting....especially if you live in or around Ardmore.

The problem is former Commissioner and current Ardmore Initiative board member Maryam Phillips, along with Current 4th Ward Commissioner Steve Lindner and Ardmore Progressive guy Nahjee Grant (most of you will remember him as the guy who wanted to run for Tim Briggs' seat but had all those odd issues trying to get on the ballot) are organizing (and have been organizing) behind the scenes and creating and fomenting ugly and unnecessary community tension.

Maryam Phillips' quasi unfathomable position goes against what the board of the Ardmore Initiative and the Ardmore Initiative supports, which of course begs the question of WHY Maryam sits on that board, doesn't it? It is of course, well established that Steve Lindner wants nothing in that end of Ardmore. These are also people who barely support the existing business district once you get past Ardmore West.

They are entitled to their beliefs I suppose, even if they are slightly twisted, right? BUT because of them, Ardmore Progressive Civic Association (which has a long tradition of not playing with others well at all) could ruin this for everyone, and that is wrong. Iron Hill has been courted for Ardmore for SEVEN years! They have been considered positive additions in every community they have invested in. And they are a business that doesn't just slap up a sign and call it a day, they are a business that invest millions into every project, hire locals, support local things. They attract a desirable clientele and are NOT a TGI Fridays, Chilis, or Houlihans. They are not a tarted up fast food drunk watering hole. They are rather nice.

Sources close to the issue say that Iron Hill is thinking of walking away because of the ugliness stirred up by those who object to any sort of progress that doesn't meet their personal and political agendas and do all of you who live in Lower Merion want that?

A word to the wise in addition: businesses that Lower Merion would drool to have in their business districts are watching this closely. If Iron Hill bails, what do you think the chances are of attracting them to Ardmore? How about slim to none?

There is also a rumor floating around that DSW is contemplating leaving Ardmore for better digs. They are in that strip mall where Iron Hill was looking. This end of Ardmore is purportedly a "gateway" and desperately needs something positive like Iron Hill. All that exists now in that end of Ardmore in addition to car dealerships, a gas station, chain pharmacies, and an ugly bank branch is the very shabby, run down, and derelict Ardmore West Shopping Center with all its issues including but not limited to the various robberies and crime issues which constantly occur. You know like the armed robbery of the Verizon store recently?

Ardmore West ironically, is one of the only things that Phillips, Grant, Ardmore Progressive and Lindner will "allow" to exist and is that what all of you want? Remember what they almost did to Planet Fitness?

Shouldn't Ardmore be a little more inclusive all the way around? A little more cohesive and not carved into invisible zones with almost visible lines drawn in the proverbial sand?

Do you want choices other than the limiting choices offered by McDonalds, Ihop, and Wawa for that part of Ardmore? Do you want businesses that will attract people to Ardmore that will spend money elsewhere in town? Then please consider attending this meeting.

I will not elaborate much on what was reported out of the Ardmore Progressive meeting the other night. Can we just say it was ugly? And wrong? And the attitudes somewhat shocking after all this time?

And to address the parking - there is a GIANT lot across the street that is never full to capacity. It is FREE and well lit and next to a fire station. People will indeed choose to park there over the neighborhood streets which are more than a little far afield for this discussion.

And to address another issue - the liquor license. There has been a liquor store there for years. There is now the craft beer place. Why is it they are ok? Why are the member only clubs with private bars that have existed in Ardmore for years much closer to churches, etc ok but a place that is more restaurant than bar not ok?

Or does this all have to do with another set of issues which don't even belong in this conversation?

I will close by saying this is somewhat difficult for me to write about. Up until now I generally speaking, admired Maryam Phillips. But she seems to have changed a lot since she left her commissioner's office. As for Lindner and Grant, different birds cut from the same cloth. Everything they do appears to part of a larger agenda, and usually to their own ends, so I am a little perplexed of the blind following they seem to have in certain segments of the community, aren't you?

Change can be hard, and sometimes change is a no brainer. Being supportive of a business that likes to support the communities they are in like Iron Hill should be a no brainer.

But it isn't up to me. It is up to all of you to shed your apathy for things Ardmore and get re-involved. There are also other important issues on this agenda.

Regular Monthly Meeting

Date: 4/17/2013 8:00 PM

Location: Township Administration Bldg - 2nd Floor Board Room
75 East Lancaster Ave
Ardmore, Pennsylvania 19003-2323

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dmuth's picture
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Frontpaged this.

Also, is Steve Lindner actually showing up at meetings now?

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Iron Hill is a great restaurant and would be a wonderful addition to Ardmore.

I frquent the Iron Hills in Media and West Chester and BOTH restaurants are

truly terrific assets to their towns. Lets hope this project stays on track.

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The debate over this issue raged all yesterday on the Lower Merion Community Network page on Facebook. And the debate continued at the BOC meeting last evening.

One of the bombshells of last evening's meeting in Lower Merion occurred at 9:57 pm when Maryam Phillips resigned her board seat on the Ardmore Initiative. As also cited in Main Line Media News, Maryam cited part of her reasoning as "characterizations of community concerns" and while partially true, part of what was left out were the valid concerns many have over the appearance of manipulation of part of the Ardmore community by its leaders, and isn't that true? Concerns over the way she, Steve Lindner, and Nahjee Grant handled this? After all when is Steve Lindner and Nahjee Grant going to 'fess up that Iron Hill did kinda come to them right away when it was found out they would need a liquor license outside of Lower Merion? Maybe if they had acted more promptly there would not be all this controversy and bad blood?

In all seriousness is it unfair, truly unfair to ask the 4th ward commissioner to own his manipulative part in this mess? Last night at the meeting, business owners expressed concerns over the trickle down affect of being inhospitable to Iron Hill which has a terrific reputation as a business - just like it was previously said that was a very real concern.

Also interesting to note was the fact that there were people from the Greenfield Ave neighborhood who attended meeting but did not speak and it has to be asked why? After all, if they truly want to advocate for their community, they need to be heard as often as possible with their own voices- they can't just depend upon others to be their voice. Their voices should be heard so their concerns can be addressed. And not just on this project, but others as well. So what if Liz Rogan said they could speak May 1st, people don't seem to get that did not mean they could not have been heard last evening.

Yesterday afternoon, Nahjee Grant also sent out a message to the members of Ardmore Progressive and others on his mailing list that there would be another meeting about this. Mr. Grant would be *wise* to open this meeting up and also invite concerned members of the surrounding civic associations like ArdWood, North Ardmore at a minimum to this meeting so there can be a community conversation about this - after all the part of Ardmore served by Ardmore Progressive is but one part of the overall Ardmore community, and unfortunately with something like this there is a big picture that needs to be looked at. Maybe that opinion isn't one that is wanted that this meeting should be inclusive of bordering Ardmore neighborhoods and their civics, but it is what it is.

Now a special note to Jane Delheim who purportedly blames the SAC blog for all of this? Jane, find a new hobby. Let us not obfuscate the facts, dear Jane. You are, after all, still an elected official. Just because you do not like certain opinion, it neither makes it wrong or creates fault. It is opinion and Jane, dear Jane, your tired mantra of blogs and bloggers are evil, and community activists that disagree with you and others are evil is tired and old. Finish out your term and thanks for the memories, hear?

Here is the e-mail sent out yesterday by Nahjee Grant - verbatim:

From: Ardmore Progressive
Date: April 17, 2013, 4:45:44 PM EDT
To: "admore.progressive@yahoo.com"
Subject: Iron Hill Liquor License Vote Postponed Until May 1st
Reply-To: Ardmore Progressive

Good afternoon all,

The vote for a liquor license transfer on Greenfield Avenue for Iron Hill Brewery has been postponed until May 1st. This delay gives the community and applicant more time to continue a dialog with resident concerns. There will be another community meeting later in the week which we will forward that information soon, however if anyone still wishes to express their views tonight the Board of Commissioners meeting will still be tonight at 8pm as scheduled. Thank you.

Kind regards,

Nahjee Grant

President

Ardmore Progressive Civic Association

Here is the Main Line Media News Article:

Main Line Times > News

Update: Iron Hill Brewery tables liquor license request; former Ardmore Commissioner Maryam Phillips resigns from downtown board over controversy
Published: Thursday, April 18, 2013 By Cheryl Allison

Update: Iron Hill Brewery representatives asked Lower Merion Township Wednesday night to table discussion and a vote on its liquor license transfer application.

In a public comment period, township commissioners heard concern from Ardmore business leaders that controversy over the restaurant plans would have a chilling effect on efforts to attract other businesses to the town.

Several residents of the Greenfield Avenue neighborhood attended the meeting but did not comment, after hearing board President Liz Rogan's remarks that an opportunity for comment and a full discussion will take place before a vote in a special board meeting May 1.

Former Ward 4 commissioner Maryam Phillips did address the board, speaking as a community resident. She said she wanted to respond to what she felt were characterizations made during last week's committee meeting that neighbors were "unreasonable" in stating concerns....At the April 10 meeting, several neighbors, including the vice president of the Ardmore Progressive Civic Association, spoke in opposition to the transfer, saying they had only heard about the application when Iron Hill co-owner Mark Edelson met with the civic group two days earlier to present the company’s plans.....Rogers said in an interview Wednesday afternoon that Edelson had met with about two dozen community members on Monday to discuss concerns. Following that meeting, he said, “Iron Hill, out of respect for the community, has agreed to a two-week postponement.”

He also said that, in light of the controversy, Iron Hill is "re-evaluating its involvement in Ardmore."

Re-evaluating translated most simply means they might look elsewhere in my opinion (which is shared by others). Including looking outside of Lower Merion. Can it be said a lot of businesses find it too difficult to do business in Lower Merion?

As for the time line, again I was told that Nahjee Grant and Steve Lindner knew about Iron Hill around the first week of March, so how is it the community they represent did not know until around April 8th? How does this work? And why is it many in the community seemed to think that Iron Hill is just some college bar?

I will close by saying I do not like a lot of projects, but if I still lived in Haverford and say Wilkie Lexus or Wendy's closed and Iron Hill wanted to go there, I would have been fine with it. I go to Iron Hill in Phoenixville, West Chester, and Media. Their locations in Phoenixville and West Chester especially are quite close to residential and it all works and they like their neighbors and to the best of my knowledge their neighbors like them.

That part of Ardmore needs major help and the residents need to do more than say no. They need to say what it is they want, and if it is something different, telling the township who can pay for it would be helpful too.

So now everyone waits....and hopes that Iron Hill is still willing to give Ardmore a shot.

And for those of you displeased with Steve Lindner, stop voting for him. Vote for someone else, start a write in campaign for the next election. Politicians are definitely replaceable.

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I've never been to an Iron Hill establishment, but many credible informants say that they are very nice, family-friendly restaurants and that they do not generate a rowdy crowd that will trouble the nearby residents.  Nevertheless, I have to agree with Maryam Phillips that it is wrong to dismiss the neighbors' concerns as unreasonable.  First, this was sprung on them with two days' notice, which is not very considerate behavior on the proponent's part -- though it now appears that they are trying rectify that mistake. 

Second, people's perceptions that the lot across the street, which also serves the fire station, is mostly empty and can easily accommodate a 275-seat restaurant, is somewhat outdated.  Ever since Plant Fitness opened up, that lot has been busy.  It would seem appropriate to do some counting of empty spaces during the prime evening hours to see what's available before Iron Hill moves in.  I wonder what happens if the lot is full and there is a fire -- where do the volunteers get to  park their cars near the fire station in an emergency?  And, as the neighbors pointed out, if the lot does fill up, where do Iron Hill patrons put their cars?  In front of people's houses; naturally they are not thrilled at the prospect of people leaving a brew pub at 2:00 a.m and wandering around their neighborhood.  Let's be real:  people in Haverford or Villanova would be adamantly opposed to this in their neighborhoods.  

Finally,  the talk along the lines of "If this isn't permitted, no business will ever think about coming to Ardmore," is nonsense.  Ardmore presently has a 3% vacancy rate, and the Dranoff project is fully funded and will move forward.   Ardmore is going to be facing a very difficult parking situation beginning in 2014 as the Cricket Lot is taken out of service.  Conshohocken just voted down a proposed zoning amendment what would have allowed  a ten-pump Wawa complex on Fayette Street; Wawa's attorney used the same argument with the Borough Council:

"We hope that you will not send a message to the business community that this is not a friendly place to try and develop," he said. 

The argument failed.

http://articles.philly.com/2013-04-18/news/38649951_1_provco-pineville-fayette-wawa-convenience-store

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I have heard that the people who were going to renovate Buca pulled out?  If so, that might be a better fit for Iron Hill as it's about the right size and the parking lot there (along with meter parking on Lancaster) can support it?

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Hugh with all due respect, you can't compare Iron Hill to Wawa. Secondly, the reason the residents had such little notice has to do with the community leaders Iron Hill went to - Steve Lindner and Nahjee Grant knew weeks in advance, only Lindner did nothing - my sources say MANY, MANY people and commissioners have read him the riot act on that. And is it true Lindner was first told about this or knew about this as far back as JANUARY? And considering that Lindner and Grant were hand-picked by Maryam, well what does that say? It seems to me that those who are elected and appointed to represent this part of Ardmore have some explaining to do, don't they?

If Iron Hill walks, they will go to another municipality like Radnor which may be more welcoming as far as the community goes.

As far as the parking issues in Lower Merion, especially in Ardmore, they will never go away as long as Lower Merion Township refuses to deal with them. And when have they really dealt with parking in this whole "Ardmore Revitilization" process? I think the conversation about a garage on the Bernicker lot should be reopened.

Also to be considered (not that anything can be changed at this point), wouldn't the Dranoff project been a better fit in a location like that giant empty lot on the corner of Lancaster and Ardmore Ave across from Bryn Mawr Trust? And just left the Cricket Lot alone?

When that Dranoff project starts there will be BIG problems in Ardmore....among those to be considered is what happens to Clover Market when that project starts?

Whatever. I have said what I had to say. Can't see any of this from my window or TV thankfully any longer.

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Not comparing Iron Hill to Wawa; just noting the familiar and common attempt at mild blackmail along the lines of, "If you don't allow my pet project to go ahead, no one will ever want to do business with your town in the future."   Agree 1000% on Ardmore's parking problem; have long felt the Township should have followed the 2004 ULI panel's recommendation that they build parking for Township employees on the Bernicker Lot.  Or done so even earlier, when they were renovating and expanding the Township building.  The Buca space would seem to be ideal for Iron Hill -- already fitted out for restaurant and the parking is adequate. 

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This was posted on FB:  Anyone that wants to hear the voices of the community directly affected by the Iron Hill bar/restaurant issue is welcome to the 4/22/2013 Monday night meeting. 7:00p.m. the PALM Center, Ardmore Ave. Ardmore PA. Come out and voice your issue, I'm sure thru some heartfelt conversations we can get a better understanding of this situation.

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This is going to be approved on Wednesday, May 1.  The resolution approving it on the grounds that it promotes economic development has already been written, just waiting for the couple of hours of meaningless hearing followed by the predetermined vote.

http://lowermerion.org/index.aspx?page=51&recordid=4783&returnURL=%2findex.aspx#bp

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This wasn't approved. Post has been updated with Cheryl Allison's article. New date seems to be June 5

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I'm really hoping that this restaurant gets approved, I've eaten at their location in Chestnut Hill and the food was very good. I think it actually would be great for the neighborhood and would create jobs.  Its a very nice establishment, not really a bar at all. Its more like a Gullifty's.  

 

What is the parking concern for neighbors? I didn't think that parking was legal along the street in front of those houses at the end of the street near DSW.  ??

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The parking concern is that the lot across Greenfield Avenue can't accommodate all the patrons of a 275-seat restaurant, so that they will be roaming the neighborhood looking for places to park and taking up spaces that the residents need.   Commissioner Brian Gordon acknowledged that he and Bruce Reed had helped to create this as a potential problem by changing the zoning code to require fewer parking spaces per restaurant customer, in an effort to encourage more restaurants in the commercial areas.  What I don't understand why Iron Hill thinks the Greenfield Avenue lot can handle this but the lot in front of the former Vinnie Ts/Buca di Beppo can't.

Now that Plate has folded, maybe they should take a look across the tracks at Suburban Square.  Or the big restaurant building that Federal Realty is about to put up next to the Giant in Wynnewood.  Or the old Borders Books building, where it is rumored that LA Fitness isn't going to be coming after all.  

Here's an article from Patch that tells us in detail about the residents' concerns:  http://ardmore.patch.com/articles/ardmore-neighbors-unite-against-iron-hill

 

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I thought that the Bucca di Beppo space was going to be taken over by a new Estia tavern?  Did that deal go down the tubes?

There is a lot of vacancy over in Wynnewood including the old Borders location, I would be even happier to see Iron Hill there (selfishly) because I wouldn't have to drive so far!

I take your point about the need for parking for a restaurant, but wouldn't Iron Hill already have scoped out whether there was sufficient parking to make it a viable location? I doubt they want people having to drive around the neighborhood looking for parking spaces either.

The Plate location in suburban square isn't nearly big enough for an Iron Hill, they have to have space for the brewing operations (the beer is made onsite) as well as the regular restaurant/bar space.

The Annie Sez space in Penn Valley on Montgomery might be a good spot...hope someone at Iron Hill is watching these comments!

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I was shopping at DSW this past Sunday around 2pm in the afternoon, and after shopping I decided to check out the parking lot across the street to see how many cars were parked there. It seemed to me that the parking lot was less than half full. That parking lot actually has a lot of space in the back. I don't know what it is like at other days/ times, there was plenty of room in the lot on Sunday. 

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It can get pretty full during the prime evening dining hours.    Word is that they are negotiating with the owner of Ardmore Plaza for a parking deck on the lot to accommodate more cars.

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