Benton Township planners table motion for special use

By Tony Wittkowski | Business Reporter | The Herald-Palladium

BENTON TOWNSHIP — Plans to allow an auto repair shop to operate within a rural property were delayed Monday night.

The Benton Township Planning Commission tabled its motion on the business’ application for a special use permit in order to discuss any potential considerations that could be added.

Michael Braamse, who started Uptown Auto Service in 2009, was issued a warning in May after the township found his business to be in violation of the zoning ordinance.

Braamse’s mother, Helen, owns the 77 acres at 105 Paul Ave. where the business operates. Braamse told planners he turned a garage into an auto repair shop with his mother’s encouragement.

A few residents spoke against the business because of the farmland nearby. Building Official Tom Baldwin read a letter from a concerned couple, which cited issues with the smell of gasoline and the sight of vehicles.

“My family has owned this property for over 100 years,” the letter read. “If the applicants wish to have a business, they should be required to choose a location within a designated commercial area and not force my family to have to put up with the negative impact this business would have.”

When asked what he does with any liquids or excess material, Braamse said he pays to have tires and barrels of antifreeze to be properly disposed of. Braamse, who didn’t operate the business for a brief stretch, said he is the sole employee and does not plan on hiring if the permit is approved.

John Smietanka, Braamse’s attorney, told planners he would meet with them at a separate time to discuss any conditions they wished to add to the permit.

Smietanka provided planners with photos of the property and argued the business was far enough from the road to not diminish property values.

“I think this is a win-win for the township,” Smietanka said. “This is not an impediment to the people in the area. It is recessed in the woods and there is very little traffic.”

Planners did not schedule a date for its next meeting to make a decision for the permit. Two members will meet with Smietanka to discuss any considerations Braamse is willing to do.

Among the conditions planners discussed as a possibility were limiting the special use permit to the pole barn on the property and setting hours of operation.

Contact Tony Wittkowski at twittkowski@TheHP.com or (269) 932-0358. Follow him on Twitter: @tonywittkowski.

(Author’s Note: This article was originally published on July 26, 2016)

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