Winsted-Lester Prairie Journal, Jan. 24, 2000

McLeod board denies salvage yard permit appeal

By Gail Lipe

George Cermak's application for a conditional use permit (CUP) to continue operating his salvage yard on Highway 7, north of Lester Prairie, was denied by the McLeod County Board of Commissioners after input from Cermak, his attorney and community members at its meeting Tuesday.

Kyle Hegna, Cermak's attorney, said Cermak has been working to get into compliance with the court ruling and county ordinance.

"What we would like to do is define an area of his (Cermak's) property where he has to keep the vehicles contained," said Hegna. He said it would be easier to monitor a defined area than a number of vehicles.

Hegna said Cermak would like the opportunity to have the CUP sent back to the planning commission so an agreement could be worked out that would include restrictions to help monitor the site.

The board asked Larry Gasow, zoning officer, to give a brief history of the situation.

Gasow said the first complaint that was received in the zoning office was in 1981 stating that Cermak had more than five cars on the property. Cermak applied for a CUP for 10 cars at that time.

The Minnesota Department of Transportation got involved in 1991 because of screening regulations that were set at the state level.

Cermak was not in compliance with the number of vehicles or screening. The process of revocation of the CUP began in 1998. Gasow said Cermak was not in compliance and his CUP was revoked.

The court ordered Cermak to have the number of vehicles reduced to 50 cars by Nov. 12 and 10 by Feb. 1.

Cermak has a bill of sale for the vehicles from Tom Radtke, who has been gradually taking them out of Cermak's lot.

McLeod County Attorney Mike Junge said the yard is better than last year, but still is not in compliance.

Cecil Martin, a neighboring landowner, said he believes Cermak is trying to get into compliance, and the initiative he has been showing says he will.

Bruce Stacken, a neighbor to the east, said if the original complaints began in 1981, and keep resurfacing, common sense would see the past history shows that it will not work.

Another community member said he felt Cermak is being put in the position that his rights are being violated. He said there have not been any calls for criminal intent to Cermak's property, and Cermak has done more for his neighbors and friends than he has gotten.

Sam Montgomery, a neighboring landowner, said Cermak brings in business from outside the county. He would like to see the whole area zoned commercial so people would have an idea of what will be going in there.

He also said the comment in the newspapers about Cermak's health and age should be retracted. It should not be an issue to whether the CUP is granted or not.

Junge said the issue to look at is whether the area is an appropriate place for a junk yard or not. "Somebody's health should not be consideration for approval or denial of the CUP, but should not be an excuse for non-compliance either."

Commissioner Sheldon Nies said the reason the issue was before the board was because of non-compliance. He said the other major issue is zoning of the area around Cermak's.

Randy Cermak, Cermak's son, said it boils down to Cermak's right to make a living.

Commissioner Mel Dose said he was in favor of giving Cermak another 10 months to a year to get into compliance.

Nies made the motion to deny the CUP following the recommendations of the planning commission. It passed on a 3-2 vote, Dose and Commissioner Grant Knutson voted no.

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