The commission voted 6-1, with the opposing vote coming from Burleigh County Commission Chairman, Brian Bitner.
The three-hour meeting, which also included hearings on other proposed planning and zoning changes, had several local residents and business owners testifying in support of the east Bismarck, ND dealer of used cars and auto parts.
Last month, CK Auto owner Chris Krein requested a special use permit for a vehicle parts salvage yard located in an industrial area. The request involved three parcels of land covering approximately 9 acres on both sides of East Divide Avenue: 3504 E. Divide Ave., 1700 Channel Drive and 1601 Channel Drive.
At the June meeting, the Planning and Zoning Commission heard from condominium association members and homeowners near where CK Auto operates. They opposed the permit, stating that the business had "expanded the junkyards" and attracted rodents.
CK Auto started in 1996 as an auto body shop, repairing customer vehicles and buying vehicles from insurance companies to repair and sell. The company grew to become a used auto dealer, also selling used auto parts. In recent years Krein said he started running out of space for his business and started looking to acquire more land.
Since 1999, the city has received numerous complaints about abandoned or wrecked vehicles being parked in the public right-of-way, on the street, or outside the required fencing. The city has sent the business notices, dating back to 2000, stating that it was operating without a special use permit and placing fill materials in the Hay Creek floodway.
The commission agreed at last month's meeting to table the special use permit request until July 27 to allow Krein additional time to come up with a timeline and plans to correct the violations.
Prior to opening the public hearing July 27, Mayor Mike Seminary asked the commission and city staff whether they thought Krein would comply after "demonstrating a pattern of non-compliance."
"Why do we think this special use permit is going to correct this behavior?" Seminary said. "I get that we think he'll comply, but he hasn't demonstrated that. I want to know why we think he will."
In approving the special use permit, the commission gave Krein eight requirements including removing all vehicles and parts from the public right-of-way, drainage ways, and floodways by January 1, 2016. He must also build an 8-foot fence and a 15-foot setback from the property line.
"Would you be open to another condition, that if he's in violation that we shut him down?" Seminary asked city officials.
His comment didn't sit well with Krein and members of the audience. The public comment period grew tense and emotional, as many residents stepped up to the podium testifying on Krein's behalf.
Rick Anderson, president of Dakota Sanitation, spoke in favor of CK Auto on July 27. He purchased over 30 vehicles from Krein, and said his business is "a very valuable part of our community.”
“It seems like we’re kind of being a hindrance to a company that wants to expand," Anderson said. And the commission's discussion about rodents in the area made him think, "Am I about to be next?” he said.
Another resident also attested to the value of CK Auto to the community. She said after her husband fell and had a spinal cord injury, the business donated a modified car to them.
Krein told the commission July 27 his goal is not to be just an auto salvage yard, but to be a state-of-the-art auto recycling facility.
“We’re just asking for an opportunity to move forward with our plan," Krein's wife Sara Krein said July 27.
As of July 27, Sara Krein said 90 percent of the cars had been removed from the right-of-ways.
Seminary also proposed a stipulation that Krein should sit down with city staff and come up with a viable time frame for completion of the requirements set for him. The commission approved this motion.
We would like to thank Bismarck Tribune for reprint permission.