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Planning panel denies permit

NEW ULM — The New Ulm Planning Commission recommended denying an application for an interim use permit (IUP) to allow the operation of a part-time auto repair business in a detached garage on South Washington Street.

The application came from Scott Apitz to operate the garage at 1314 S. Washington. This property is in a single-family residence district (R-1). Auto repair shops are not permitted in residential districts, but Apitz has operated the garage at this location since 1988. The city recently learned about the unpermitted business following complaints. Apitz applied for a permit to continue the business.

Community Development Director David Schnobrich said the staff was recommending the IUP be granted because the business had already been operating at this location, it was a part-time business and the location had adequate room for parking. The permit was only for three years. Apitz indicated he would likely retire after three years.

Schnobrich said staff would not recommend any new auto repair business in a residential area.

Commissioners ultimately recommended denying the request based on concerns from neighboring properties. Alley resident Kristen LeGare spoke during the hearing and raised concerns about the business creating additional traffic in the alley.

LeGare said she would have no problem with the business being there if there were respect for alley traffic rules. There was additional concern about vehicles blocking the alley.

David Apitz spoke on behalf of his father’s business. He said the business is over 30 years old and winding down. He believes the amount of work conducted at this garage would continue to decrease as his father reaches retirement age.

The business only anticipates two to three customers a week and auto work at this garage ranges from oil changes to motor swaps.

David Apitz said his family was not aware auto repair business was restricted in the residential area and it had not come up since the business started in 1988.

The commission was provided with aerial photos of the property and four vehicles and two trailers could be seen on the property.

Commissioner Rodney Karnitz said he would not be pleased if he was a neighbor to this property.

The commissioners also questioned the length of the IUP. The permit request was for three years, but there was a question if the permit should be for a shorter period.

Commissioner Larry Mack viewed the IUP as a method for businesses to get a taste for a business at a certain location before moving to a permanent location. This was a different situation because the business had already operated for over 30 years. The permit was being requested because a complaint was filed.

Karnitz suggested a six-month IUP be granted to determine if the business was able to meet conditions.

Commissioner Anne Earl was concerned about setting a precedent for allowing an auto repair garage in a residential district.

Commissioner Jeff Gulden said it was also unfair to the mechanics who opened a business in appropriate districts. This could be taking business away from those who followed the regulations.

Mack asked if Apitz had considered opening a garage in a permitted business district.

Scott Apitz said he never made enough money to open a regular business and now the number of customers was decreasing.

The commission considered limiting the time of the permit, but Gulden said he would not support any additional time. He said, “It was time for this thing to end as far as I am concerned.”

Gulden made the motion to recommend the permit be denied, with a second from Earl. The motion to deny passed unanimously.

The final decision will come before the city council on Tuesday, Dec. 15.

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The commission recommended approval for a preliminary plat in the Airport Industrial Park at 2216 Jacobs St. The property is intended for industrial use and is 13.65 acres. The reason for the platting is to allow the city to sell the property.

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