Mayor wants to put the brakes on used car lots

By: Brian Louwers | Warren Weekly | Published February 7, 2012

 Warren Mayor Jim Fouts said the city currently has 56 used car lots. He recently called for a moratorium on new lots while the city’s ordinance governing them is re-examined.

Warren Mayor Jim Fouts said the city currently has 56 used car lots. He recently called for a moratorium on new lots while the city’s ordinance governing them is re-examined.

Photo by Brian C. Louwers

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WARREN — How many used car lots are too many?

Warren Mayor Jim Fouts said the city currently has 56, and most of them are located south of I-696.

Last month, he called on the Planning Department, members of the Planning Commission and the Zoning Board of Appeals to consider placing a moratorium on applications for new lots until the city’s ordinance governing them can be tweaked.

“It’s just to the point where it’s out of control,” Fouts said. “I feel we need to have a moratorium until we can get it controlled.”

Fouts said he’d like to see the ordinance updated to include more restrictions, especially related to the location of the lots.

A memorandum from the mayor’s office indicated that the existing ordinance, enacted in 2008, includes restrictions, but the Zoning Board of Appeals had granted variances that “circumvent these restrictions.”

One such restriction currently prohibits lots within 700 feet of another. The current ordinance also restricts lots to certain zoning areas.

Fouts said he’d like to see lots located a half-mile away from residential areas.

He said six or seven recent requests for variances raised a red flag and prompted his call for a moratorium, adding that he was more concerned about “mom-and-pop used car lots,” and less about those tied to full-time auto dealers with expanded operations, including the sale of new vehicles.

“A gas station may get some huckster attorney who goes before the Zoning Board of Appeals,” Fouts said. “They look like heck. They’re doing nothing to enhance the city.”

Zoning Board of Appeals Secretary Caren Burdi said she received the mayor’s memorandum about the moratorium last month. She said her actions regarding the request and how it would affect zoning requests for used car lots would depend on the recommendation of the city’s legal department.

“I’m just going to do whatever is proper for the residents and proper for petitioners,” Burdi said. “We have to take everybody into account. Whatever the city attorney’s office says regarding the legality of it, I’m going to follow. I’m not a political player. I just do my job.

“It’s important that the zoning board be fair to everyone,” Burdi added.

Warren Planning Director Ron Wuerth said the mayor’s request would be sent to the Warren Planning Commission as correspondence for their next meeting Feb. 13. After that, the matter would likely be scheduled for public hearing during the Planning Commission’s meeting March 12, at which time the commission could make a recommendation to the Warren City Council.

The City Council would then take up the issue sometime thereafter, possibly in March or April. Wuerth said the council could be asked to consider a moratorium of three or six months.

Any resolution regarding the moratorium would be written by the city’s legal staff.

“Within the three- to six-month period, we’d take a look at what we have, the text in the existing ordinance at this time, and make changes and modify it, and propose that text back to City Council for approval,” Wuerth said.

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