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Collection of 99 vehicles too many for rural acreage

Elk Township resident Jose Vasquez told the Nobles County Planning Commission on Wednesday that he’s willing to do whatever they want regarding the 99 vehicles stored on his acreage. (Tim Middagh/ Daily Globe)

WORTHINGTON — One month after his initial appearance before the Nobles County Planning Commission, Elk Township resident Jose Vasquez went before the commission Wednesday night to say he’s willing to do whatever they want regarding the 99 vehicles stored on his acreage.

In the past month, Vasquez said he hasn’t allowed any more vehicles to be brought to his site for storage, but he also hasn’t removed any of them. In addition, he’s gathered more of the titles for the vehicles stored there, but he couldn’t provide a count as to how many of the vehicles have them.

Nobles County Environmental Services Director Wayne Smith, along with Environmental Officer Mark Koster, have met with Vasquez in the past month to discuss the issues. Smith says Vasquez needs a conditional use permit to store vehicles on his site, noting that the storage equates to a home-extended business. In the past, similar sites have been permitted for up to 30 vehicles.

During Wednesday night’s discussion, there was no clear-cut decision on just how many vehicles Vasquez should be allowed to have on his acreage. Smith noted the Vasquez site is larger that the other sites that had been permitted for vehicle storage.

A month ago, when Vasquez first appeared before the commission, he said some of the vehicles were repaired by him at his shop in Worthington. When the customer didn’t come to pick up their vehicle, he explained, he had to take it to his acreage because he had no place to store it on his site. He also said people had asked him to store vehicles for them while they were out of the country.

On Wednesday, Vasquez said some of the cars were brought to his acreage because their owners were warned they would get a $91 fine from the city if the vehicle wasn’t moved within 48 hours. To avoid the ticket, these people asked Vasquez to take their vehicles, neither offering money to store it nor the title for Vasquez to dispose of it.

“You mean well, but we think you’ve been taken advantage of — at least I do,” Commissioner John Penning said. He said Vasquez is just too nice of a person and needs some business advice.

Commission chairman Richard Schlichte agreed, saying Vasquez needs to develop a business plan to reduce the number of vehicles stored on the site.

“He either has to take the titles up front or have someone go get those titles for him,” Schlichte said. “Personally, 100 cars is too many. We should give him some time to get those titles and have some procedure to move those vehicles.

“I know if I had a friend who left a vehicle on my yard for two years, it would have been gone a long time ago,” he added.

Realizing the challenges in securing titles for the vehicles, Schlichte said the commission has to give Vasquez time to reduce the inventory. Just how much time he should have isn’t clear. Some commission members mentioned giving him six months to get rid of a third of the vehicles, while others wanted to see progress made within the next two months.

Vasquez plans to take some of the vehicles to Shine Brothers, but noted a month ago and again Wednesday night that the price is too low.

“He’s got to have to move some of those cars out — even if the price is cheap,” said Commissioner Brent Feikema. “We have to sell corn and beans sometimes, too, when the price is low and we don’t want to.”

Nobles County Attorney Kathleen Kusz, who advises the Planning Commission, said five months should be “more than enough time” to comply with the statute.

“Even if you say (he should) process every car he has titles for, if he’s got titles for a number of the vehicles, that could be done sooner than the five months for sure,” she said.

Kusz said Vasquez may need to work with an attorney to learn what his options are and how he can get the titles to disperse of the vehicles.

Smith said he would be willing to work with Vasquez and try to find individuals who can advise him in his business.

Meanwhile, Elk Township Chairman Andrew Dierks said the township is interested in having a policy in place for setback requirements for the cars stored on the site. Dierks said he doesn’t want the cars parked too close to the road, and asked that the site be kept as neat as possible.

In the end, the commission voted to table any action on the conditional use permit to allow Vasquez time to work on reducing the inventory. He was asked to appear before the commission again on May 24 to provide a progress report.

Earlier in the evening, the Nobles County Board of Adjustment met and approved a variance request from Jordan Reker, Rushmore, to establish a feedlot on a farm in the southeast quarter of Section 22, Larkin Township. A variance was needed because the site is less than the required 1,320 feet of separation from the closest neighbor.

Reker is renting an acreage where a barn and a concrete lot already existed, but was not licensed as a feedlot because licensing began 23 years ago — after any feedlot existed on the site.

Reker plans to house 50 to 100 feeder cattle on the site.

There was no opposition to the request.

Julie Buntjer

Julie Buntjer joined the Globe newsroom in December 2003, after working more than nine years for weekly newspapers. A native of Worthington, she has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism. Find more of her stories of farm life, family and various other tidbits at The Farm Bleat

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