Council reluctantly okays compromise
By BROOKS TAYLOR
Mt. Pleasant News
Retaining a current business meant the Mt. Pleasant City Council had to compromise Wednesday night on a zoning matter.
And the council was not overly pleased in approving the compromise.
“This is a compromise,” Mayor Steve Brimhall said in leading off the discussion.
“It is kind of a mixed bag for me,” assessed Councilman Steve Engberg. “They were told not to expand and they did. I have an issue with shutting down a business, but I also have an issue with a business who does want it wants to do (regardless of city zoning regulations). Zoning is there for a reason.”
The dialogue was in response to approving a non-conforming use agreement with Henry County Customs LLC, a vehicle repair business located on the 300 block of North Lee Street in Mt. Pleasant. The commercial business is currently located in a R-2 residential district.
Basically, the agreement forbids the business from expanding and mandates the placement of an eight-foot fence around most of the property. The fence has to be installed on the south and west sides by Oct. 1, and the entire fence within 18 months.
The agreement also states that Henry County Customs remove “parts vehicles” when the vehicle being repaired is completed and returned to the customer. The business cannot salvage vehicles to be sold for parts. Also, no vehicles, trailers, tires, parts or equipment shall be stored outside the fenced area or on the south side of the premises.
If the non-conforming use of land ceases for any reason for a period of more than six months, any subsequent use of the land must conform to the district regulations in which the real estate is located.
The agreement also says that “a non-conforming use of a structure, or structure and land in combination is discontinued or abandoned for one year, the use of the same shall thereafter conform to the uses permitted in the district is located. Where non-conforming use status applies to a structure and land in combination, removal or destruction of the structure shall eliminate the non-conforming status of the land.”
Sale of building, property and/or business voids the agreement.
Neighboring property owners were polled on the agreement and Barb Welander, city building/zoning administrator, said only two of the 22 adjacent property owners opposed the agreement.
City Administrator Brent Schleisman reminded council members that the agreement has not been tried or tested in court. “We haven’t gone to an attorney or through the court system to see the level of non-conforming usage.”
Judging from comments by council members, they feel the business has taken advantage of the city.
“The expansion has been let go too long,” Councilwoman Deb Savage said.
“They were non-conforming and then got worse non-conforming,” Councilman Stan Curtis noted. “Personally, I am opposed to a zoning change in the area. I am like Steve (Engberg), I think it is a mixed bag. It is a step in the right direction but wonder if it will solve the problem.”
Engberg said that for him it is the “final staw.”
“I don’t want to give the impression that a business can do whatever it wants to do and we will fix it so it is okay,” Engberg stated. “If we let this one through, this is it. We have to get a grip on it or why have zoning? This particular one (business) was told not to expand and they did.”
In other agenda items, the council approved Police Chief’s recommendation of the appointment of Benjamin Altenhofen to the Mt. Pleasant Police force. Altenhofen will be paid $38,001.60 with a step increase following satisfactory completion of a six-month probationary period.
Altenhofen has a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Buena Vista University. He has been employed by the Washington County Jail since November of 2011. Altenhofen is a Washington native and currently resides in Washington. He replaces Jesse Bell on the force. Altenhofen will be attending the Iowa Law Enforcement Academy from Sept. 3-Dec. 13.
Council members approved an ordinance setting a speed limit of 35 miles per hour on Grand Avenue from Washington Street to Winfield Avenue. The first reading of the ordinance was passed and the second and third readings waived.
City staff had recommended retaining a 45 miles-per-hour limit from Washington to Mapleleaf and 35 miles per hour from Mapleleaf to Winfield. However, several council members questioned the rationale for two speed zones on the same stretch of road. Archer also told the council that having the same speed limit would be easier to enforce.
Finally, the council sold a city-owned residential lot at 417 N. Broadway to adjacent property owner Thomas O’Brien for $2,500. There was a house on the lot but it was torn down in the last year.