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City decides Simison can stay

After much talked about review and even a site visit, the Detroit Lakes City Council has decided TS Recreational is operating within guidelines to be located in an auto-oriented zone.

After accidentally allowing a rezone to auto-oriented, the city followed up -- after many outraged citizens spoke against the business -- by looking into owner Todd Simison's business along Highway 10, east of Detroit Lakes.

The follow-up included forming a committee to look into the type of equipment on the site, and city staff, alderman and a few others took a trip to the property to see firsthand.

A large portion of the January visit and meeting following the visit consisted of talk on whether Simison's property and business should be considered a junkyard or salvage yard.

Most of the angered citizens come from East Shore Drive, which lines the rear of the property.

But, the question before the Detroit Lakes City Council Tuesday night was not one of whether people are happy or not with the TS Recreational location between Highway 10 and East Shore Drive. It was simply if it complies with the B-3, auto oriented zoning it resides in.

At the council meeting, several people spoke for and against the project. East Shore Drive resident Dave Gorman said he owns lots adjoining TS Recreational and was "definitely in favor of what he's doing over there."

Ardy Hanson, while expressing her dislike for the business' location, she also commented on the city's actions, saying, "I feel you are responsible to us." She also wanted to know the definition of "salvage," to which Mayor Larry Buboltz responded, "There is no definition."

"Why not? Is that not important?" Hanson asked.

Jim Sinclair, East Shore Drive, said, "Is it a junkyard, and if it fits zoning" are the only two questions before the council. He said that if it is defined as a junkyard, then no it's not allowed.

Defining junk, he said is items people have thrown out and have little to no value. If the items can't be sold, Simison said he sells them for scrap metal.

"What else is junk?" Sinclair questioned. "It's discarded materials. It's a good business, but it doesn't belong there."

Simison's father, Jerry Simison, defended his son saying, "He's a neat individual. I guarantee it'll look better in a year than it has ever looked."

Todd Simison said he disclosed everything to the city he needed to when applying for the zoning. He added that the project is only disrupting a few people along East Shore Drive.

"I should not have had to go along with this like I have," he said of the process, including that he can't sleep properly with the stress.

Sinclair said he's sure the city had full disclosure or they wouldn't have approved the business in that location.

"If you go to a bank and say you're going to rob it tomorrow and they say OK and you rob it, you're still going to jail," he used as an analogy.

Alderman Bruce Imholte said he appreciated the site visit last month because it gave him a better opportunity to make a decision. And while he doesn't classify it as a junkyard, borrowing words from someone else, he said, "It doesn't have to be a junkyard to look junky."

He said he could see the citizens' views because having zoning laws gives citizens a "legitimate" complaint. He said hearing his fellow council aldermen say this issue "isn't a big deal" bothered him more than anything.

"The city doesn't serve either party in this issue," he said.

That being said, Imholte and aldermen Walt Tollefson, Jim Anderson, Matt Brenk and GL Tucker voted in favor of the business. Voting opposed were aldermen Dave Aune, James Hannon and Leonard Heltemes.

East Shore Drive resident Mara Bergen said she had been to Stillwater, Minn., and a similar business was located in an industrial zone setting but was completely fenced and enclosed, not letting on what it was from the outside, something she would like to see happen with TS Recreational.

As part of an earlier agreement with the city, Simison was required to submit a landscaping plan for his property and have it in place next year. Simison has complied.

A meeting on the landscaping plan of the area is scheduled for Feb. 28 at 9 a.m.