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Planning commission says no to downtown used car lot

There will not be a used car lot at the corner of Washington Avenue and Highway 10, the former Mac's hardware store location.

Steve Walz of Audubon Auto Center asked the planning commission Thursday night for a conditional use permit to park used cars in the parking lot, in an attempt to see if the business would like to move to town permanently at some point.

"We're just using it as a display lot," he explained, stating that there would be no office there or cars sold from that location. Instead, he planned to hang signs in the vehicles, directing people to the Audubon location for now.

City Administrator Bob Louiseau said Walz wants to "use the parking lot along Highway 10 and the east side of the building," housing about 10-15 cars.

While Walz assured the commission he simply wanted to test the market for six to 12 months -- "this is nothing permanent for us" -- Louiseau said by law, the city can't attach a time limit on a conditional use permit, information he said he was just made aware of that afternoon.

"There's no question it's a cornerstone to the community," Scott Walz said. But, he continued, the building is already an eyesore and Steve Walz is simply asking to park a few cars in the parking lot. He said he didn't see why the city couldn't place a time condition on a conditional use permit, especially when the applicant is asking for the time limit.

Several downtown business owners voiced their opinions against the car lot, regardless of the period of time it would be in place.

Washington Square Mall Manager Dawn Olson said it would be in poor taste to allow the lot at the entrance of the city. "It's not a plus even on a short-term basis," she added.

Mary Beth Gilsdorf, Norby's Department Store, pointed out that even though Walz says the lot would be temporary, the conditional use permit isn't, so it could go on longer than six to 12 months.

Roger Price of Price's Jewelry said if there was a way of guaranteeing it would only be for six months, he would be more open to the proposal. He added that he has been excited to see the Goldman-Schlossman company purchase the property and the former White Drug property because of possible business development.

To his disappointment, he said, there are now offices in the White Drug building downtown and a possible used car lot at the Mac's property.

The planning commission members agreed that although it would be temporary, they still didn't want the business in that location.

Chairman GL Tucker said the business doesn't fit with what the city wants in that location, but he would like to give the business an opportunity to come to Detroit Lakes.

Commission member Judy Stowman warned that if the business was allowed, even on a short-term basis, "we're opening a door."

Commission member Pat Lindquist said he absolutely wants to help the business come to own, just maybe in a different location.

"I don't want to discourage you," he said.

He made a motion, which was unanimously supported, to deny the request with the understanding that Louiseau and Community Development Director Larry Remmen would work with Steve Walz to find a more suitable location for the temporary car lot.

Walz agreed that that was fine. "That would be appreciated." He said that evening was the first he had heard about not being able to get a limited time period on the permit.

"I certainly don't want to offend anyone," he said.