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Area JPB suspends conditional use permit

The Bemidji Area Joint Powers Board on Wednesday voted unanimously to suspend the conditional use permit issued to Mike Schulke, the owner of Bemidji Iron & Recycling.

While the CUP is suspended, Schulke will be allowed to move material out of the property located on Bemidji Road Northeast and Sumac Road Northeast, but will not be allowed to move material in.

The CUP for Schulke previously was approved with 12 conditions by the Northern Township board on Feb. 12.

Mel Milender, Northern Township's planning and zoning administrator, submitted a memo in July that stated that the business was not complying with some of the CUP conditions required to be met by July 1.

Karen Fredrickson, who lives on nearby Pearl Drive Northeast, spoke during the public hearing and said the business is noisy, smelly and loud. She also said it operates outside of allowed business hours and materials were visible above the fence.

"It's a nuisance," she said.

JPB members voted unanimously to temporarily suspend the CUP. Board member Richard Lehmann, Bemidji's mayor, said Schulke had since February to meet the terms of the CUP. He noted the last line of the permit, which states that any violation of the conditions will result in the permit's immediate revocation.

"The last line for me speaks a lot," he said.

In order to have the CUP reinstated, Schulke must meet the following conditions:

E have no more violations of operating the business outside of allowed business (7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays and 8 a.m. to noon Saturdays).

E the crusher must be moved and conducted north of existing buildings.

E move all materials to the required areas.

Once those conditions have been met, Schulke will be allowed to begin moving material onto the property and again operate as usual.

Schulke previously was required to plant 10-foot trees in two rows on the north and east side of the business by the end of June and a single row of six-foot trees on the south property line behind the existing fence by July 1, 2008.

However, the JPB decided that due to Schulke's noncompliance, all previously required trees - and trees that had been required by July 1, 2008 - must be planted by Oct. 31, 2007, and maintained for survival for at least two years.

Thomas Smith, a Bemidji attorney representing Schulke, said Schulke had taken steps toward meeting the conditions of the CUP. But, he said, he obviously had not yet planted the trees.

A letter was submitted by from Charles Thomas, the planter. He said it is too hot and dry to plant the trees now and that he was hesitant to plant before September.

Board members acknowledged this was true. Ron Johnson asked why Schulke had not planted the trees earlier in the year.

Smith said the CUP issue was approved in February and Schulke first addressed other matters, such as a new entrance into the business and moving equipment. By the time Schulke began looking into the tree planting, it was too late, he said.

"Could it have been done? Yeah," he said, adding that the entire time Schulke also still had to operate a business. "He thought he had more time."

Out of the 12 conditions initially imposed on the business in February, Schulke met four of them - and one, regarding the third set of trees, was not required to be met until next year.

During the public hearing, Fredrickson, who has lived in her home since 1998, said she believes the business is affecting potential home sales. She said one of her friends' daughters was interested in possibly purchasing a nearby lot, but changed her mind because of the business.

Russ Glen, who lives on Country Club Road Northeast, said he has lived in his home since 1980 and has "no problem" with Schulke's business, which opened in 1991 as a small operation before expanding.

"There have been some mistakes made in this area - and none of them by Mr. Schulke," Glen said.

Perhaps the Northern Township board should have zoned the area for residential from the beginning, he said. But, it didn't.

"Buyer beware," he said. "That business has been there a long, long time before people moved in."