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Auto graveyard decision on hold



Pulaski Town Council Tuesday night put on hold a decision on whether to grant a special exception for an automobile graveyard on southeast First Street.

David Gibas, a partner in Good Ol’ Boys Recovery, said he and his partner, Kelly Dalton, only want to use the property 12-18 months for temporary storage of towed vehicles in order to get the new business on its feet financially and have time to find a permanent location.

Gibas said the business is looking at signing a 12-month lease with property owner Billy Warden if the special exception is approved.

“We don’t want to be there forever. This is to get our business started and roots planted,” Gibas told town council following a public hearing in which no one spoke against the application.

Pulaski Planning and Zoning Director Brady Deal said the town received one letter from an agent for an adjacent property objecting to the request. That property owner is concerned about potential negative impacts on property values.

Under the town Zoning Ordinance, an automobile graveyard/junkyard is defined as property on which five or more inoperable vehicles are stored. Inoperable vehicles have no current registration or inspection.

Gibas said the property would be used for temporary storage of a maximum of about 15 vehicles (no large trucks). This would allow the business to expand its services beyond commercial towing of broken down or improperly parked vehicles and be placed on the more lucrative police rotation list for wrecks.

Gibas estimated a wrecked vehicle typically is stored for 10 to 20 days at maximum before being sent to an insurance auction. “We don’t want them on our yard long-term because we’re not able to respond to calls if we don’t have room to store the vehicle and that’s money out of our pockets,” he explained.

Deal said the town engineer looked at the lot, at 34 First St. S.E., and determined there isn’t likely to be room to store enough vehicles there to require mitigation measures for storm runoff. However, he said the business will have to make sure no fluids leak from the vehicles and that any leaks are promptly cleaned up.

Under state code, the portion of the lot facing First Street must be shielded from view by a black covering. Although the code doesn’t address shielding of the rear of the lot, which is visible from Pulaski Train Station, Deal said town council has authority to impose conditions on the special exception permit requiring that side be shielded from view.

Gibas said he intended to shield both sides from view. The lot is between two existing buildings, limiting the view to two sides only.

While several council members said they could be persuaded to allow the business to use the property for a limited time, they also indicated they would prefer town staff to work with Gibas and Dalton to find a more suitable, and possibly permanent, location.

“I don’t want to discourage you from doing this,” Councilman Jamie Radcliffe said it gives him “heartburn” to think of a junkyard in an area the town is trying to redevelop and improve. He noted work is underway to install a skateboard park across the street from the property and many town events take place in sight of the property.

Radcliffe also questioned the ability of First Street and its busy intersection with Washington Avenue to handle tow trucks coming and going and trying to negotiate the lot. According to Gibas, the property will be accessed from the rear (train tracks side) instead of First Street.

Council also questioned whether it is proper to allow such use for a property earmarked for commercial use in the Comprehensive Plan. Auto graveyards would not be allowed in commercially zoned districts. They are only allowed in I-2 Industrial Districts by special exception — the .12-acre lot’s present zoning.

Deal said zoning decisions are to be based on three principals: whether the proposal promotes the general welfare of the public; whether the proposed use is a public necessity, and whether granting the application is good zoning practice.

“This doesn’t fall into the long-term vision of the town. I certainly like to see new business in Pulaski; but I would ask the question if there is a more appropriate location that would meet both goals and not be so visible,” Councilman Greg East said.

“I can’t speak enough about the professionalism shown by the applicants during this process,” Deal noted. Unlike what sometimes occurs, he said they “didn’t violate first and ask for permission later. They went through proper channels and we have worked with them on finding properties that might suit their interest. What they voiced to me is they’re financially limited right now, being a new business. They’re looking for a place where they can kick-start the business to move forward.”

Town Manager Darlene Burcham asked whether the special exception, if granted, would be attached to the business or the property owner. Deal said it’s his understand it would attach to the business. He said he will specifically state that the permit expires if the business leaves or ceases to exist.

Council questioned what would happen if the business left vehicles parked there. It was suggested a secured bond to cover the cost of removal could be made a condition of the permit.

Based on discussion, Councilman Brooks Dawson said, “I think there is somewhat of a general consensus it’s not consistent with the future use of the property. I don’t think I would be willing to approve it as is, but I would be interested in seeing what conditions can be put on it from a time-frame standpoint so it doesn’t slow our progress.”

Councilman Michael Reis questioned whether it is economically beneficial to use the property for only 12 to 18 months since it has to be screened and junk stored there now has to be removed.

“It would be if we can get 12-18 months there to help business financially so we can find place to stay long-term,” Gibas responded.

Radcliffe said he wouldn’t have an issue with the business using the property 12 months, but not make it a permanent home.

East said he is struggling with the property being used 18 months because Pulaski is a town that needs to “hit zoning hard” in order to improve its appearance and attract investors. “That’s my focus. Is six months feasible?” he asked.

Gibas said six months wouldn’t benefit the business because of the process required to get onto the police rotation, where the most money can be made.

“My first choice would be to work with them to find a more suitable place they won’t have to move from,” East said. He said he also would like to have more information on how the business will impact traffic flow.

“But, I think we should help these guys in any way we can to do that,” East added.

Councilman Tyler Clontz made a motion to table the request until the Sept. 21 meeting to allow staff and the town attorney to develop conditions to attach to the permit. The conditions will address concerns discussed during the meeting, such as duration of the permit, screening, a surety bond and ingress/egress.

Clontz said council has to make sure it protects the public good while enabling the business to use the property.

The motion passed unanimously.



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