A request for a conditional use permit for an auto repair business near St. Clair was unanimously denied Tuesday night.

The Franklin County Planning and Zoning Commission wasted no time rejecting Kristen Armistead’s request for a CUP. Instead of sending the issue for further discussion to its review committee, the board opted to turn down the request at Tuesday’s meeting.

CUP Request

Armistead was seeking a CUP to operate a motor vehicle service and towing business in the nonurban and agricultural (NUA) zoning district. The business is located at 991 Turkey Ridge Road outside of St. Clair.

Before Armistead even spoke, Planning Director Scottie Eagan pointed out two issues with the application. First, Eagan said towing businesses are not a permitted use in the NUA district even with a CUP.

The second issue was about a material public nuisance violation on the property. Eagan said the county’s zoning enforcement officer, Tori Karim, inspected the property earlier this month ahead of the plan board’s meeting.

During the visit, Karim noticed derelict cars and other issues that needed to be cleaned up, Eagan said. The property was cited for the violation Aug. 8.

Armistead said the towing service was a long-term idea by her husband Glenn Armistead if the business took off. She said if it wasn’t allowed, it wouldn’t be a problem to not have a tow service.

Armistead also said a clearing had been made on their property and she was waiting to pour gravel. Once the gravel was placed, she said the derelict vehicles would be relocated and out of sight from neighboring residents.

Eagan informed Armistead that the county does not allow derelict or vehicles in disrepair to be stored outside. County code prohibits junkyards.

Armistead said she would do whatever it took to be compliance. She said her husband was planning on rebuilding and working on Ford vehicles and just wanted a permit so everything was being done the right way.

Opposition

Washington attorney William Eckelkamp said he was representing a “slew” of neighboring property owners who opposed the plan. Eckelkamp said the property was currently functioning as a junkyard.

Eckelkamp showed Google Earth photos from October 2015 and 2016. In the year time lapse, he said the property was covered with at least 16 derelict vehicles. He said he hadn’t heard anything from Armistead convincing him that the property wouldn’t still be a junkyard moving forward.

The opposition’s lawyer also made allegations about the property owners. He said neighbors hear noises at all hours of the night and smell burning rubber.

“There is something going on over there that is probably not correct,” he said.

During Kristen Armistead’s testimony, Commissioner Todd Boland asked why she was the applicant and not her husband Glenn if he was going to be doing the auto repairs. Armistead said she would be running the business and was a better public speaker.

Eckelkamp alleged that the real reason was Glenn Armistead didn’t apply for the application is his “colorful history.”

He also said the neighbors were concerned about groundwater contamination from the vehicles.

Kristen Armistead said much of Eckelkamp’s attacks were “personal issues.” She said Paul Armistead no longer lived at that house. She was adamant the property was not a junkyard.

“We are going to get things that aren’t supposed to be there gone,” she said.

Decision

At the end of testimony, the board was faced with moving the request to old business and voting for or against it at the same meeting, sending it to its review committee or tabling the request to another meeting.

The board talked about tabling the request until the material public nuisance was addressed, but that would just delay the case month to month. The board then discussed sending it to the review committee and putting a deadline on when the nuisance issue had to be addressed.

Ultimately, the board decided to just send the issue to old business for a same-night vote after County Counselor Mark Vincent pointed out the permit, if approved, wouldn’t be issued until the cars were removed.

Vincent said the board’s decision was based on if it would or would not approve the permit once the nuisance issue was addressed.

After that, and no more discussion, the board voted unanimously to reject the request.