Automotive Recycle Center says “not a junkyard”


IMLAY CITY — Recycling Center. Junkyard. Call it what you want. The bottom line is there could be a new business coming to town and bringing employment opportunity and revenue with it.

The Imlay City Planning Commission met May 28. A company wanting to locate in Imlay City, and seeking a Special Land Use (SLU) permit as part of the process, may bring potential tax revenue and jobs to the city.

Although the lengthy agenda was filled with other business matters, the biggest elephant in the room was the pending discussion of the potential sale of nearly nine acres of land that has sat vacant for years.

Mayor Joi Kempf (left) and Planning Commission Chairman Walt Bargen, look over documents while other PC members Tom Germayne, Frank Demske and John Lengemann discuss plans for a new business with an architect with ACME Auto Parts.

The property is located at the northeast corner of M-53 and M-21. Commercial buildings continue to sit empty and have fallen into disrepair over the past several years.

ACME Auto Parts has expressed an interest in opening their third location, hoping for approval of the Imlay City site.

According to the ACME Auto Parts website, the company is a global used parts exporter, sending containers all over the world. They like the location and are already financially invested with the site with environmental studies and a down payment on the property being made, pending final decisions from the city. The company has expressed a strong desire to bring their business to Imlay City.

The company repairs automobiles and currently operates a recycle center and used vehicle lot at two other businesses, located in Pontiac and Highland Park.

Company officials told the commission, “We are not a junkyard. We have a totally different type of business. We do not stack cars and make it look like a typical junkyard might look like. We recycle vehicles. We strip a vehicle of all usable parts, inventory them and dispose of what we cannot use. A vehicle might typically sit on our lot for about 90 days.”

Commission members admitted to feeling like the proposal seemed to be an attempt by a company wanting to locate a junkyard at the heavily-traveled intersection.

Commission Chairman Walt Bargen said he is not in favor of the business setting up shop at that location.

“I am very concerned with this for a lot of reasons, one being the location,” he said. “It could be very unsightly, regardless what you call it. There is nothing attractive about this. I’m not trying to be mean or insulting to you. I just have strong reservations and personally think we should pass on approving this.”

PC member John Lengemann echoed Bargen’s concerns, saying, “I think it should not be on that corner. They are just putting lipstick on a pig (in not calling it a junkyard); it’s still a junkyard and I don’t want to see it there.”

In the proposal, ACME officials say except for the front of the location, the entire area, where vehicles would be temporarily stored, would be totally fenced in, not visible to the public or passing traffic.

The company also intends to invest dollars into renovating some of the buildings on the property, razing others and making the appearance of the property on the corner appealing and nice to look at.

To the north, the property would include the current location of Maryland Chicken. The business would remain, but would have new owners of the property the building sets on.

Zoning Administrator Lonnie Hayes said, “As the property sits now and it’s current zoning (B-3), anything auto related can be located there. They are required to get the SLU.

Hayes added, “It sounds like their business is a bit different than over in Capac where there has been a junkyard for many years. This not a junkyard. They would not stack cars. If we saw that, the city would have to enforce that and issue citations accordingly. It would be up to the city to police that.”

Hayes told the commission the new business owners, “appear to be well organized. This is not their first rodeo. They have successful businesses in Metro-Detroit that are doing well.”

ACME officials told the board 90% of their business comes from insurance companies. 70% of the vehicles end up being stripped of all useable/sellable parts. Any discharge of vehicle fluids is controlled and monitored on a regular basis. Environmental samples are taken every 12 weeks at their other two locations and would be in Imlay City as well, if approved.

Andrea Donnelly, the realtor for the property asked the board, “if you don’t allow these folks to locate there, what are you going to allow? What is coming to Imlay City there? That property has sat there for a long time with no activity. None. These folks want to come and do business in Imlay City. Are you going to turn them down and have the property just sit there? For who knows how much longer?”

Mayor Joi Kempf was among those who admitted when they came to the meeting, they had visions of a “junkyard” coming to town, and she didn’t have a lot of interest in that.

“As the meeting went on, and they explained things, my mind started to be not so one-sided and I could sort of see what they were saying,” Kempf admitted.

She went on to say, there’s a fine line there, in deciding how to proceed. We want new business in Imlay City, right? New jobs, more revenue. Good for other businesses. But, we don’t want to create an eye sore either. I think these folks have every intention of being successful and making it look nice as you drive by.”

In the end, the PC asked for a concept drawing of what buildings and a fence would look like. No action was taken, and Bargen told ACME officials they could request a special meeting, once the new documents were completed. It’s expected the next meeting will take place within days, as opposed to weeks.