AUBURN — A proposal to allow auctions of semi trucks and trailers at Auburn Auction Park was denied Wednesday night by a 3-1 vote of the Auburn Board of Zoning Appeals.
Board members said they believed semi sales would alter the character of the district around C.R. 11-A and C.R. 23, south of the city, and negatively affect neighboring property values.
The decision effectively blocks a proposal by Fort Wayne Auto Truck Auction to purchase the 150-acre site from RM Auctions, which has owned it since 2010.
“If we don’t get proper zoning for it, we walk away, and we would move somewhere else,” Carl Miskotten, a partner in Fort Wayne Auto Truck Auction, told the board in a hearing at City Hall.
The property now is the site of two large collector-car auctions conducted by RM Auctions each year. Adding the sales of semi tractors and trailers required a special exception from the BZA.
“I don’t want to bring something like that into this neighborhood,” zoning board member Don Myers said. He joined Mary Hohler and Dave Schlemmer in voting against the special exception for truck sales. Only board Chairman Pete Kempf dissented.
“Is that the look that we want to have there — a more industrial look?” Hohler asked, describing the site as a gateway to Auburn from the south.
Hohler and Myers visited the existing home of Fort Wayne Auto Truck Auction at 3600 E. Washington Blvd., Fort Wayne, and came back opposed to its move to the auction park.
Myers said he talked with neighbors of the Fort Wayne business who told him the company does not care about appearances.
Hohler said the Fort Wayne site is surrounded by other truck-related businesses.
“Those type of businesses are going to naturally want to pop up around here,” she said.
Schlemmer said he weighs the opinions of neighbors heavily in his decisions. Two residents of C.R. 23 spoke in opposition to truck auctions Wednesday night at City Hall.
Doris Blickenstaff said she also visited the Fort Wayne site and counted 150 semis on the property Wednesday, when no auction was taking place.
“I was disappointed in the fact that it was so grossly different than we had been led to believe” about the number of trucks that would remain on the site, Blickenstaff said.
Mark McCollough raised concerns about runoff of petroleum and hazardous wastes from semis.
“We are all on shallow wells out there. The contamination of our well water is a real issue,” he said.
McCollough said he was impressed by a commitment from Fort Wayne Auto Truck Auction to plant trees to screen neighbors’ views and keep semi traffic off C.R. 23. However, he said those issues are secondary to his water concerns.
As the meeting began, an attorney for Fort Wayne Auto Truck Auction offered the screening and traffic commitments in response to objections raised last week at the first meeting about the special exception request.
“I’m not sure that we’re quite the devil that is being made out,” Miskotten told the board.
The discussion featured questions about the future of RM Auctions’ annual collector car sales. Since 2010, the company has carried on a tradition of car auctions in Auburn that the Kruse family began in 1971.
Miskotten said if his company bought the site, RM Auctions would have a five-year lease to continue its auctions there twice a year, using the site on Memorial Day and Labor Day weekends, with an option to renew for five more years.
“I don’t think you can guarantee next Labor Day if I’m not in the picture,” Miskotten told the zoning board.
“I’m concerned that if we don’t grant this, it’s going to be sold, and something will come in there that is not related to the auction at all,” Kempf said.
“Without them, what are the chances the classic car auction would continue?” Stephen Brown asked the board. He said his company, which is developing the Heron Lakes subdivision nearby, supported Fort Wayne Auto Truck Auction purchasing the auction park.