Vehicles removed from former site of Amy's Auto Salvage

WILLMAR -- All inoperable and junked vehicles have been removed from the site of the former Amy's Auto Salvage, 503 state Highway 40 S.W., members of the Willmar City Council's Community Development Committee were told Thursday evening.

WILLMAR -- All inoperable and junked vehicles have been removed from the site of the former Amy's Auto Salvage, 503 state Highway 40 S.W., members of the Willmar City Council's Community Development Committee were told Thursday evening.

Amy's Auto Salvage closed and vehicles were removed after the council, on Sept. 5, overruled Planning Commission approval of an application for plan review. The plan review was requested by business owner Amy Meyer of Cambridge.

One day after the council acted, Meyer and business partner Doug Skaug were notified by letter from City Clerk-Treasurer Kevin Halliday to "cease and desist'' operations.

The vehicles were not immediately removed, however, because Meyer and Skaug appealed the council's decision. But the appeal was denied Oct. 6.

The owners of the property, Paul and Virginia Wearda of Willmar, were notified by a Dec. 20 letter from planning and development services director Bruce Peterson to have all vehicles removed no later than Jan 19.


His letter said the Weardas, as owners of record, were responsible for the ultimate removal of the vehicles. The letter said the storage of the vehicles violated zoning ordinance exterior storage regulations that require vehicles not in use to be properly licensed and screened from adjacent land and streets.

Peterson told the committee that all vehicles were gone by Jan. 22.

Committee member Jim Dokken said confusion arose on the part of citizens who attended the Planning Commission hearing when the plan review for Amy's Auto Salvage was discussed and approved. Owners of neighboring businesses were opposed to the salvage yard.

"I think it's important whenever a public hearing is held that the public have some basic education on what the proper questions are for them to raise at these public hearings. For most of them, it's probably the first time that they've had any exposure to government,'' Dokken said.

"Unless they have some basic idea of what they're being asked to approve of or not approve of, most of the time what I hear is what difference does it make if I come to the meeting because you already got your mind made up and my being there isn't really important.''

Peterson said the confusion stemmed from the fact that Meyer and Skaug claimed that before they entered into an agreement with the Weardas to use the property that city staff had told them that what they proposed was acceptable.

"The confusion was that staff had really told them that here is what the ordinance requires, that there was a land review process that they had to go through,'' he said. "It was a permitted use, but it was a permitted use with either conditional use permit review or with full formal plan review.''

Peterson said the confusion led Meyer and Skaug to make the investments and proceed with business before they went through the formal approval process, which included approval by the council.


"On a conditional use permit or plan review, it has to be approved through the council consent agenda and the council is free to pull it and act on it separately. And that's what they did in this case,'' he said.

Meyer, in an interview Thursday, said Willmar citizens were outraged by the council's action. Meyer and Skaug say they felt they had approval from the city to proceed and spent $75,000 to set up shop. Removal of the vehicles will bring the total closer to $100,000, she said.

"We laid it all out for the city what a wonderful business we were, how we were going to do exactly what needed to be done to make that business a very successful business and in compliance with what the planning and zoning commission laid out for us,'' Meyer said.

Meyer and Skaug had said they would sue the city, but Meyer declined to discuss a possible lawsuit.

In other business, the committee discussed the public's concerns about exterior residential maintenance and talked about the idea of appointing a committee to study residential housing maintenance regulations.

Committee members decided to wait until they receive a report of the council's planning retreat during which the committee idea was raised.

Meanwhile, Peterson said he'd offer to hold an educational meeting with real estate agents or offer to present written information for real estate agents to present to home buyers about property maintenance.

He also offered to put information together for landlords and property managers when their rental licenses are renewed.

What To Read Next
Get Local