Gardner Auto Sales owners are running out of options to keep their business within Gardner city limits.
The Gardner City Council accepted a recommendation from the Planning Commission to deny the rezoning of the lot on the south side of Gardner.
Without the rezoning and due to a permit expiration, Tyrone Jones is technically now selling cars from his lot illegally. City attorney Jim Hubbard told council members that how they enforce the zoning code is up to them, so Jones may be temporarily allowed to continue selling used cars at 18865 S. Gardner Road.
Jones was granted permission at a previous meeting to simultaneously seek a special use permit that would allow him to operate the used car lot for up to two years. The rezoning would have allowed the sale of used cars there indefinitely.
Jones did not say whether he would move forward with attempting to secure a special use permit. Council members also suggested he could look for other Gardner property that’s already zoned appropriately from which to sell his cars.
“I think the perception is that the city of Gardner doesn’t want car lots,” Jones said. “I don’t think I would take a chance to try to buy property in Gardner.”
Jones and Mr. Singh, the property owner at the lot’s existing location, first applied to sell used cars last year. When they approached city staff with the idea, they were told they would need a land use permit, which the city granted on Sept. 25, 2012. The permit stipulated that it was for six months, however Jones said city staff told him a renewal would be a formality.
With city permission in hand, Jones received his car dealer’s license from the state in November and sold his first car of 56 sales so far, on Dec. 12, 2012.
Three months later, in March 2013, the Joneses received a letter saying the land use permit was issued in error. They would need to request to have the property rezoned, from C-2 to C-3, in order to continue selling cars at that location.
“They city gave us permission and the city implied to the state of Kansas that this was OK to do and then the city changed its mind,” Jones said.
However, council member Larry Fotovich said Jones should view the erroneously issued 2012 land use permit as a gift, because had the city required that Jones go through the appropriate channels, the lot likely would not have been approved.
“You should thank the city for making a mistake,” he said.
“Why would I thank the city for costing us money? Why would I thank the city for me quitting my job?” said Jones, who has previously told the planning commission and council that he and his wife sunk their life savings into the used car lot.
While virtually all council members agreed that the city was in error, the majority voted to deny the rezoning request. All but council vice president Kristina Harrison voted to deny the request.
She explained that if citizens don’t like the property where it is, they don’t have to buy cars from that lot.
“It’s really a choice of the consumers,” she said.
Jones left shortly after the request was denied and a police officer walked council members to their cars saying Jones was mad when he left. And police weren’t sure where Jones went when he departed.