Tyrone Jones, Gardner, can continue to operate his used car sales business at its current location for the next few months. Planning commissioners tabled a rezoning decision that would allow Jones to operate the business at 18865 Gardner Road permanently.
When he applied for a permit to sell used cars south of town, city planners issued him a six-month conditional use permit. Jones was told that its renewal wouldn’t be a problem, but six months later, he learned that the permit had been issued in error. The permit expired March 24, but Jones was given 90 days to apply to have the property rezoned from C-2, or general business district, to C-3, or a commercial district.
City staff recommended that the planning commission deny the rezoning request during an April 23 meeting.
Mike Hall, Gardner Community Development Director, told the commission that the location on Gardner Road is a gateway to the community.
“It is a gateway to Gardner and reflects positively and negatively to people entering Gardner from that vantage point,” he said in remarks urging commissioners to deny the rezoning. “Aesthetics matter. That’s where the community needs to put its best foot forward.”
Angie Jones, Tyrone’s wife, said the business is not an eyesore. It is located next to a convenience store and liquor store on a lot that is smaller than one acre.
“My husband does not sell clunkers,” Angie told the commission. “We keep those cars clean. There are no flags or balloons… We’re paying taxes and doing everything we can to employ people and work with people there. And now we have our life savings invested.”
The property generated $14,556 in property tax last year, of which, more than $3,000 went to the city. Another $8,000 went to the school district. The business also generates hefty sales taxes that go to the state and city.
Jones said his livelihood is wrapped up in the car lot.
“If the city would’ve told us that we couldn’t do this, I’d still have a job and a savings account,” he said.
With his six-month permit in hand, Jones applied to the state for his car dealer’s license and purchased an inventory of cars to sell. The process also included getting a sign permit from the city.
Jim Coughenour, vice president of Gardner Bank, said the bank, which is located north of the car lot, does not have a problem with the rezoning request. However, the owner of property just east of the car lot, said the rezoning would devalue his lot. He said he purchased the lot with the intention of developing a retail center there.
Brian Keeney lives in a housing development half a mile away from the lot.
“Our biggest concerns are aethetics,” he told the commission.
Commissioner Andy Copeland asked how the six month permit was issued in the first place.
Hall, who did not work for the city of Gardner at the time the permit was issued, said there was a mistake in reading the zoning maps.
“The zoning maps around the office are pretty small,” Hall explained. Car sales are allowed across the street and a little further south, and Olathe Ford currently sales RVs there.
Copeland said if the existing project were brought to the commission, he would vote to deny.
“I would say no,” Copeland said. “Where I struggle with this is I don’t see how we can in good conscience tell these people that they can’t have their business here…(Jones) did h is due diligence. My position is I don’t like it, but it is not this man’s fault. He did what he was supposed to do.”
Commissioner Tory Roberts agreed.
“We lead them down the path,” she said. “It really bothers me, because they did the right thing.”
The lot’s existing zoning, C-2, does allow for the sell of new cars and motorcycles. Commissioner Jason Burnett suggested that instead of rezoning one spot on the map, the commissioners consider amending what is allowed in C-2 zoning to allow for used car sales.
“I’m not saying that’s the best use of the property, but that might mitigate some of the mistake,” Burnett said.
Commissioner Greg Godwin said he would be supportive of some sort of five-year-plus conditional use permit that would allow Jones to wind down his business and recoup his costs.
“I’d like staff to come back with a recommendation on how to proceed,” Godwin said. “I’d like any type of special use or conditional use permit we could do under a C-2 that would allow this use for a period of time.”
Commissioners tabled the rezoning request to research the possibility of amending the current zoning to allow for used car sales with a long-term but temporary conditional use permit.
As it currently stands, Jones has through the end of June to remove the car sale operation from its existing location.
The planning commission next meets at 7 p.m. on May 28 at city hall.