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Zoning issue sends business packing

So much for trying to do the right thing.

Jason Pape, president of New Richmond Transport, wanted to secure financing for his local business but the loan process uncovered a problem with his property.

Seems the company's maintenance shop, which has been home to a variety of businesses since the 1970s, was never properly zoned nor was a conditional use permit ever issued.

As a result, Pape's attorney Nick Vivian said, the company approached the city to see what could be done about the situation.

Their hope was that the city would amend its ordinance to allow for a conditional use permit in an R2 zone for maintenance shops.

"We're trying to figure out ways to keep this business in town," Vivian said.

Pape said the company has been providing local transportation services in the area for 15 years, and they employ between 20 and 25 people.

With the poor federal reimbursement system, Pape said the company operates on a shoestring budget and must do its own maintenance on its 27-vehicle fleet.

If forced to move to a new location or contract for its repair services, Pape said, the company could go under.

The city fielded no complaints about the New Richmond Transport business until after the zoning issue was uncovered.

Neighboring homeowner Scott Peper said he always assumed the business was in compliance with city rules, but now that he knows it isn't it's time to correct a wrong.

He said the traffic has increased dramatically at the business over the years, and numerous vehicles are often parked around the neighborhood due to the location of the company.

Alderman Jim Johnston said the mess was created years before, but the city cannot continue to look the other way.

If the business wasn't allowed to continue in that location, city officials said Pape would have 30 days to shut down.

But alderman Jim Zajkowski said the businessman should be given at least four months to find a new location.

The council voted 4-1 against changing its ordinance that would possibly allow the business to continue in its present location. Alderman Fred Horne was the lone dissenting vote.

City officials told Pape they were willing to discuss options for a new location for his maintenance shop.

In an interview after the meeting, Paper said he was disappointed with the city's action.

He said New Richmond Transport has worked hard to curtail traffic and address their neighbors' concerns, yet they are still being pushed out.

Pape said he doubted the company would be able to remain within the city when they move, but he's willing to talk.