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Auto repo business gets Newport council approval

A vacant property along one of Newport’s main thoroughfares might soon get the cleanup it has long needed with the recent proposal for an auto repossession business on the site.

Cottage Grove resident Dave Sullivan received a conditional use permit last week to operate Imperial Recovery Services on a property located at 310 7th Ave. The business, Sullivan explained to the Newport City Council last week, will store repossessed vehicles year-round. The lot, Sullivan said, will be fenced off and not open to the public.

As part of the permit, Sullivan has proposed restoring the building that is currently on the site by removing the rust and repainting it. He said the building was a big selling factor for him because he plans to also store high-end vehicles, as well as boats and motorcycles, for clients.

With some repossession business occurring overnight, the Newport Planning Commission was concerned about noise. However, TKDA planner Sherri Buss said trucks would use a different back-up signal to alleviate noise.

“They would be required to use what is called a broadband beep,” Buss explained. “It’s not a high-pitched beep. It has a lower tone that if you’re further away you can hardly hear it.”

Tow trucks entering and exiting the property during the night would also be required to use the south entrance to prevent shining headlights into adjacent homes.

To mask the appearance of the interior, Sullivan is proposing to screen the existing fence with a green mesh material and line the property with shrubbery.

“We plan on being good neighbors,” Sullivan said. “We take pride in this business and we don’t plan on being someone with a lot of problems.”

Currently, Sullivan said he is working with two homeowners to possibly purchase the adjacent homes which would be used to house employees. He said having employees living near the business would offer more security.

Summer cleanup planned

The property is no stranger to the auto business.

Bill’s Auto Salvage/Bill’s Auto Parts formerly occupied the site, and consequently contaminated the soils. And before Sullivan can repave the lot or place any other impervious surfaces or structures, the property must be cleaned.

Throughout the years, the city and has obtained grant funding to clean up some of the site, and in October 2012 completed a Phase I Environmental Site Investigation and a Phase II Investigation Report and Response Action Plan, as specified by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.

To further assist with cleanup efforts, the city applied for a Contamination Cleanup Grant from the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development. However the application was turned down.

With a new tenant eyeing the property, city officials said they are optimistic that their chances of receiving grant funding will increase this year.

Sullivan said he is willing to continue to push for cleanup funding and is working with the city of Newport to submit a grant application before the May deadline.

He said he expects to get contractors on the property in July and the process started by late summer.

Council member Steve Gallagher said he understood that this type of business might not be the most desirable for the property. However council member Bill Sumner said the city is “fortunate to have a business that wants to come into Newport.”

Sullivan expects to hire several local residents to operate the business.

“All day I’d rather hire here,” he said. “Anybody that lives in Newport would be a preferred employee to me.”