Reversing a Plan Commission ruling, the Baraboo Common Council voted Tuesday to allow a South Boulevard auto repair shop to sell used cars.
On a 6-2 vote, the council granted Devine Custom Truck & Auto Repair permission to sell vehicles. Last month, the Plan Commission denied the Devine brothers’ request, saying they didn’t want a used car lot creating an eyesore along a gateway route into the community.
But after several customers and associates spoke in favor of the Devines’ plan, and City Attorney Emily Truman pointed out a 2017 change to state law that limits municipalities’ authority to regulate activity on private property, the council voted to reverse the Plan Commission’s decision.
“It’s not a substantial difference you’re going to see in the property,” said council member Scott Sloan, noting vehicles already are parked at 712 South Blvd. “I’d hate to see the city looked at as anti-business.”
Bill and Ryan Devine opened the business last summer and are looking to expand. Building owner David Deppe encouraged the council to allow the brothers to sell vehicles. “I really feel the city’s responsibility is to support businesses, not restrict them,” he said.
Several customers said the Devines run a reputable business. “Small business is what makes a town click and go,” Bryan DeKeyser said.
“There’s a lot of reasons for it, and I don’t see any reasons against it,” Amy Orvis said.
Pat Kozel scoffed at claims South Boulevard is to be protected as a gateway into Baraboo. Its properties include a jail; a mobile home park; rental storage units; and auto sales and repair businesses. “I think that’s all nonsense, that it wouldn’t fit in with the gateway of the community,” he said.
Truman recommended the council reverse the Plan Commission’s decision based on the change to state law, which put the onus on municipalities to demonstrate the proposed use of a private property is detrimental. “It was a substantial change. Most municipalities are struggling, quite frankly, with their codes,” she said.
Council member Tom Kolb, who voted against the Devines’ request as a member of the Plan Commission, lodged a “protest vote” Tuesday against the Legislature’s rollback of home rule. Kolb said he has heard good things about the business, but wants to improve South Boulevard’s appearance. He said minimal landscaping and low building standards plague the artery.
“I’m really conflicted about this,” he said. “I want a different look for this community’s premier gateway.
“I don’t want to change South Boulevard into a giant used car lot.”
He and council member Phil Wedekind, who also opposed the Devines’ request at the Plan Commission level, said they fear more requests to sell vehicles along South Boulevard will result from Tuesday’s reversal. “That bothers me,” Wedekind said. “A vote for this one is a vote for the other four.”
But the majority said the city should support entrepreneurs, noting they’d rather see used cars than a vacant lot. The Devines hope to buy the property they’re renting from Deppe. “They’re not really in this for an overnight stay, they’re in this for the long haul,” said council member Joel Petty.
The council also proposed creating a committee to address how the change in state law might affect city code enforcement.