Vehicle storage near trail OK’d

A towing company can continue to store wrecked vehicles near a popular walking and cycling trail after a unanimous vote Tuesday night by the Grand Junction Planning Commission.

Western Towing was granted a conditional use permit for keeping the vehicles on the site at 2381 1/2 River Road.

The business must plant more trees along the south side of its property, which is along Riverside Parkway, as a sight buffer for walkers and cyclists on the other side of the parkway who are using the Colorado Riverfront Trail.

Western Towing also must build an 8-foot fence that would shield from view the wrecked vehicles, which were to be moved from the south side to the north side of the property.

Planning commissioner Lyn Benoit said he was concerned that property owner Mike Knowles had been out of compliance with city codes for a few months for having the cars on the site without a conditional use permit. The business had been cited for not having a permit.

Vehicle storage is an acceptable use of the property, which is zoned I-1 light industrial, if a permit is issued.

Industrial zoning is allowed at that site, according to the city’s comprehensive plan.

“I think the applicant has done a good job,” Benoit said about its plans to keep the operation out of sight as much as possible.

An opponent of the permit, Carolyn Emanuel, said storing wrecked vehicles near the Colorado River and the Riverfront Trail was discouraging tourism and had detracted from efforts over the years to rid the riverfront of junkyards.

Emanuel wanted commissioners to reconsider industrial zoning along the riverfront.

“All that money we spent to do Van Gundy’s,” she said, referring to the cost to taxpayers of cleaning up the area near the Fifth Street Bridge. “And now we’re allowing another junkyard. Do we really want to go backward?”

Opponents of the conditional use permit have 10 days to appeal the decision.

Western Towing is not allowed to stack vehicles at the site.

An attorney for the company, Keith Ehlers, said there is no salvage work done on the site. The operation is a holding lot for totaled vehicles, though not all vehicles have body damage.

Vehicles are sold to buyers through an online auction and are on the lot for 60 days at most. The business is growing and employs 177 people who are “very well paid,” Ehlers said.


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