An illegal junkyard in Maple Grove Township had Crow Wing County commissioners Tuesday balancing an individual's need to make a living with a need to regulate such operations.
In the end, the commissioners approved a rezoning, which allows the salvage operation to continue with conditions.
The county's Planning Commission granted a conditional use for the junk salvage business for automobile and farm machinery. The business, run by David Kasper, has been in operation illegally for about four years and is currently under a cease and desist order. The property is accessed from Burgwald Road. Kasper needed to have green space rezoned to agriculture in order to meet county regulations for his salvage business.
Neighbors at Tuesday's board meeting objected to the business. They were concerned about a decline in property value and neighbors said vehicles were still moving on the site even with the current cease and desist order in place. Others expressed concerns about hazardous fluids and batteries from vehicles, affecting the wetland and upper South Long Lake.
Maple Grove Township Board Chairman Bill Kronstedt represented the township's objections. Kronstedt said this is a rare time when the township has taken a stand against an operation.
"It just doesn't make sense to me," Kronstedt said. "If you broke the law, then you are going to change the law so it's OK. I don't agree with that. And that's primarily the reason the township is against this."
Mark Liedl, county land services director, said there is a public misconception green space zoning is for conservation. Instead, he said, green space has been a catch-all category to allow seasonal use and the county doesn't have conservation zoning at this time.
Liedl said many existing junkyards in the county are not regulated and they have been difficult to tackle. He said this was an effort to take an existing illegal operation and clean it up, bring it into compliance and place conditions on it.
The Planning Commission put 36 conditions on the permit, including requirements for vehicle storage, screening, hours of operation and cleanup of hazardous material. The county plans four unannounced inspections during the year along with response to legitimate complaints. The conditional use permit will be reviewed in two years. Liedl said Crow Wing Soil and Water Conservation District reported there isn't a wetland issue at this time and suggested a berm be built as a precaution.
Commissioner Phil Trusty said he wasn't in favor of taking away someone's livelihood but he preferred to have a conditional use permit attached to the individual behind the business and not attached to the property as is currently the norm. Trusty voted against the rezoning.
Kasper said he can run his operation with the restrictions. In the past four years, he said he ran the operation as he liked hoping no one caught him hauling cars in and out, which he sometimes did at midnight. Now he said he'll abide by the 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. hours of operation Monday through Saturday and that will be less noise for neighbors.
Kasper said he was in the process of moving the last of the appliances off the site by the June 1 deadline, noting at one time he probably had 1,000 appliances there. Kasper said he constructed a berm on site.
Neighbors question the arrival of school buses on the property. Kasper said he is turning them into campers and bought other cars for resale.
Commissioner Doug Houge said the 36 conditions should be used as an example for others.
Houge said: "To me this is a step in the right direction to clean up a lot of these illegal operations and bring them up to a standard that we don't have today."
RENEE RICHARDSON may be reached at email@example.com or 855-5852.
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