Appeal from auto salvage business is rejected by City Council

WILLMAR -- The owners of Amy's Auto Salvage say they'll sue the city of Willmar for the right to operate their vehicle recycling and crushing business.

WILLMAR -- The owners of Amy's Auto Salvage say they'll sue the city of Willmar for the right to operate their vehicle recycling and crushing business.

Doug Skaug and Amy Meyer spoke briefly to the Tribune after the Willmar City Council Monday narrowly up-held its veto of a Planning Commission de-cision granting plan review for Meyer's and Skaug's bus-iness at the intersection of state Hi-ghway 40 and Trott Avenue So-uthwest.

The vote was 4-4 with Mayor Les Heitke breaking the tie to uphold the previous council decision.

The Planning Commission approved the plan review on Aug. 9, but the council on Aug. 21 sent the plan review back to the Planning Commission for further discussion, including clarification of the business as either a vehicle recycling center or junkyard.

On Aug. 23, the commission reaffirmed its previous definition as a vehicle auto salvage yard, saying the use is more closely related to a recycling center. Other conditions, including fencing around the vehicle storage area, were also approved.


On Sept. 5, the council overrode the Planning Commission, saying the application did not meet plan review standards, and the auto salvage business was ordered in a letter by the city clerk to cease operations.

On Sept. 18, Meyer appealed the council's decision to override the Planning Commission, and on Sept. 21 City Attorney Richard Ronning wrote that the council may have based its decision on misinformation.

Meyer and Skaug appealed in person to the council's Community Development Committee Thursday night. The appeal was discussed, but the committee forwarded the appeal to the council without recommendation.

Committee chairman Bruce DeBlieck reported on the panel's discussion.

City Administrator Michael Schmit said a motion to reconsider must be made by a council member who voted to override the Planning Commission. He said the motion to reconsider introduces the subject for discussion. Following discussion, there may or may not be motions for action, he said.

DeBlieck, who had voted to override the Planning Commission, offered a motion, seconded by Jim Dokken, to reconsider.

"I think after reviewing what the business is and what they're attempting to do on site, what the Planning Commission did was probably right and proper that they approved it,'' he said. "I think we should admit that maybe the City Council did make a mistake in overriding what the Planning Commission had recommended.''

Council member Doug Reese voiced his support.


"When I looked at it and consider what the Planning Commission had looked in their recommendation for screening, I speak in favor of allowing this business and not overriding the Planning Commission action,'' he said.

Dokken had visited the business and asked how many other council members had done the same.

"I don't know how you can deny this because it's a very first-class operation. And with the provision that the Planning Commission made I don't how we can continue to deny this,'' he said.

Ronning said what's being called into question is whether or not the facts are present to support the council's previous findings.

Ron Christianson said he's contended that the salvage yard is a junkyard. "And if it is considered to be one, it doesn't go through the Planning Commission. It falls under our licensing code for junk dealers. And if we deem it a junkyard, it has to get a license from the City Council. We have the right to approve or not. That's my view,'' he said.

Council member Steve Gardner asked how the Planning Commission could make an informed decision when it didn't visit the business.

"I don't understand how it was imperative for us to personally inspect a business that had no current legal authorization to operate without our approval,'' he said. "I don't understand how someone would make capital investments in a business without that authorization.''

He also said his findings to deny plan review were approved by Ronning before he (Gardner) offered them to the council. Gardner said he didn't understand "how we can go from a resolution being in proper form and defensible at one meeting and going to an action where the council has acted on misinformation,'' he said. Ronning didn't comment, and offered no comment to the Tribune after the meeting.


Voting to not reconsider were Gardner, Christianson, Rick Fagerlie and Denis Anderson.

Voting to reconsider were DeBlieck, Reese, Dokken and Cindy Swenson.

What To Read Next
Get Local