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Joint Planning Board: Hensley Auto Salvage denied

There will be no more second chances for Hensley Auto Salvage.

The Greater Bemidji Area Joint Planning Board Wednesday night voted 8-0 to deny an Interim Use Permit to the business, which had conducted auto salvage, auto repair and used auto sales at 4701 Irvine Ave. N.W.

"I haven't seen a real effort, a concerted effort, to comply with all of these regulations," said JPB member Richard Lehmann.

The ruling essentially shuts down the business permanently.

Owner Bill Hensley appeared at the meeting along with his attorney, Tom Smith of Bemidji.

Following the meeting, Smith said Hensley will need to consider his options for the future, after having been in business in the Bemidji area for more than 30 years.

Hensley Auto Salvage opened in Northern Township in 1977.

It does have a second site in Solway, which is where most of the work has been occurring since the main location in Bemidji was ordered to cease operation in December. Then, the JPB rescinded its Conditional Use Permit due to violations at the site.

Hensley has been working in the past seven months to clean up the property and the inside of the buildings.

Not being open for more than half of the year has hurt, he said following the meeting, noting that he has lost $1,000 a day.

The JPB stated in December that if Hensley was able to meet all of the conditions of the former CUP, he could apply for a new permit through the joint planning process.

But that effort has fallen short.

The Joint Planning Commission last month voted 9-1 to recommend denying the IUP. And, the JPB ultimately decided to follow that recommendation, citing continuous issues of non-compliance.

According to a timeline provided by joint planning staff:

- Hensley Auto Salvage was granted its first CUP by Northern Township in 1994.

- The business received a warning letter from the township in 1996 stating that it needed to remain in compliance at all times.

- In October 1998, the business was sent another warning letter.

- A second warning letter was sent in November 1998.

- An inspection in April 2000 revealed 12 violations.

- In August 2000, the Northern Township board decided to initiate cleanup measure and civil proceedings.

- Different inspections by the Soil & Water Conservation District, Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, State Fire Marshal noted several deficiencies and areas of concern.

- On Jan. 26, 2001, the Beltrami County District Court issued a judgment prohibiting the business from operating without a valid CUP and directed the business to meet 22 concerns.

- Hensley Auto Salvage applied for a new CUP in October 2001. The matter was tabled until December, at which time a provision six-month CUP was granted.

- The business received a one-year CUP in August 2002, which required quarterly inspections. The CUP was able to be discontinued if any violations of the 36 conditions were found.

- On Aug. 11, 2003, Northern Township shut the business down for non-compliance.

- In June 2004, the township ordered that the business be reduced in size.

- On Oct. 12, 2004, the business was shut down by Northern Township for non-compliance.

- Hensley Auto Salvage was allowed to resume normal operations on March 15, 2005.

- On Dec. 3, 2008, the JPB revoked the 2001 CUP due to non-compliance.

"I'm having a very difficult time," JPB member Greg Negard said Wednesday. "It's over and over again."

Planning Administrator Mel Milender said that Hensley has worked in the past seven months or so to clean up the business. However, the business still had not addressed its septic issues and the fencing along Irvine Avenue had not been upgraded.

"I will say to you that Mr. Hensley has completed a lot of cleanup since December," he said.

Milender also said, however, that staff did not have the time to spend 8-10 hours per inspection to continue monitoring the business on a quarterly basis.

Negard asked Hensley what assurances the JPB would have that he would comply this time, if he were to be given another chance.

Smith replied that the past seven months have been a "wake-up call" for Hensley.

"A huge, huge difference for Mr. Hensley is that since last November, he has not been allowed to operate," the attorney said.

Smith also said Hensley has been working to clean up the business. Despite not having a lot of income coming in due to the closure of the business, Smith said he has spent "substantial" time and money on the improvements.

"It wasn't a good use of his time and money if he's going to be shut down now," Smith said.