Plan Commission approves auto repair special exception

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Would-be business owners who would like to open repair shops for various motorized vehicles may soon have the chance to do so in Putnam County agricultural areas.

The Putnam County Plan Commission on Thursday approved such businesses as special exceptions to the county's Agricultural 1 and Agricultural 2 zones.

The amendment to the Putnam County zoning ordinance now requires final approval of the Putnam County Commissioners.

Currently, repair shops for automobiles, motorcycles off-road vehicles, lawn mowers or even farm equipment are not allowed in agricultural zones without the costly and sometimes complicated steps of rezoning.

There was no discernable dissent within the ranks of the six-member board, with some members expressing surprise that such repair shops are not already allowed in A1 or A2.

"It's probably not a bad idea," board member Kevin Scobee said.

One concern about the issues, expressed by commission president Nancy Wells, was if such businesses would fall outside of the county's abandoned vehicle statute.

County Attorney Jim Ensley advised the board that while repair businesses have some exceptions to such rules, there remain limits on the time an abandoned or unlicensed vehicle may sit in plain view.

Central to the discussion is that the special exception applies to businesses and that, like any special exception, each case would require the approval of the County Board of Zoning Appeals.

This eased any worries by board members that anyone with a garage and a heap of rusted-out cars could claim it's a repair shop and therefore allowed.

Eligible for the proposed special exception would be "automotive, motorcycle, off-road vehicle and agricultural equipment repair, parts or body shops."

Before voting on the ordinance, the commission heard from Stephanie Mundy of Jefferson Township.

The Mundys own land zoned for agriculture on U.S. 40 near the Hendricks County line. Stephanie's son is currently studying motorcycle and ATV repair, and they hope to open a shop upon his graduation.

"There will be no vehicles stored outside whatsoever. It will be very professional," Mundy said. "It's been my son's passion since he was 13 to work out in the garage."

Mundy went on to share with the board the family's plan to build a good-sized building to house the operation.

She also pointed out that the business would be consistent with two other businesses in the area, as Bumgardner's Automotive and Truck Repair lies nearby to the east in Stilesville and Shoffner Farm Equipment is not far to the west.

Following a motion by Scobee that was seconded by Eric Hayman, the board voted unanimously in favor of the measure, with additional votes cast by Wells, Randy Bee, Ann Delchambre, county councilman Roger Deck and county commissioner Don Walton.

The proposed change to the ordinance must now be advertised before going before the commissioners. Walton's affirmative vote on the plan commission likely bodes well, as it represents half of the approval needed from the three-member Board of Commissioners.

In the specific case of the Mundys, the commissioner will have to approve the new ordinance before they can apply for the required special exception with the BZA.

The amended ordinance was the only piece of business officially discussed on Thursday. A petition by Gavilon Grain to rezone the property at the grain elevator just east of Roachdale was withdrawn.

Gavilon had requested that the property at 3237 E. State Road 236 be rezoned from commercial to industrial.

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