By: Leah Uko
OMAHA (KPTM) – Auto repair shop owners in Bellevue are asking the city council to pump the brakes on a proposed city ordinance that could have big repercussions.
On Monday, Bellevue City Council decided to postpone voting on an ordinance that would require auto repair shops to work with the garage doors closed and prohibit cars to be on the lots longer than 14 days.
Council member Kathy Saniuk said the reasoning behind wanting shops to close the garage doors was a noise factor.
"There's a school across the street, across the street the other way is a jewelry shop," Saniuk continued. "So you want to be a good neighbor and you don't want to be disruptive to the other businesses."
She added that without a time limit for cars and boats to be on lots, customers could potentially take advantage of the shops.
"Having a nice appearance and a nice business and so unless the city puts a time limit on it, it could turn into a storage lot and that is not appropriate for the business area that it's in."
The proposal was prompted after a zoning issue regarding Grasso's Small Engine Repair, a boat and small engine repair shop located at 301 West Mission Avenue.
In May 2013, the council passed an ordinance that made parking boats on the lot forbidden.
The following month, Grasso's opened.
The City Planning Department said the area was zoned Metropolitan General Business and "Marine Sales and Service" was not identified as MGB use.
The city cited Grasso's 14 times, but after Scott Grasso, the owner, took it to court the council dropped the violations.
Grasso thought the "harassing" was over until recently. He accused the council of being incompetent—citing safety issues regarding closed garage doors.
"It helps with the fumes that are created by engines," Grasso explained. "There's welding fumes, exhaustion fumes from small engines and if a fire ever happened the easiest access is through a garage door."
He also said the 14-day limit would damage how auto repair shops conduct business. To diagnose a car, he said, could take up to five days. This would leave him nine days to repair it.
"Then you need to contact the owner, collect the 50 percent down and then once that's all done you have to order parts, then once parts come in you have to have the time to fix it."
Owner of Blaha Service, James Blaha shared the same safety concerns.
"We can't work in here with the doors closed in the summer. It's just not possible," Blaha said.
He also added that a 14-day parking limit would be unattainable for many of his customers who live paycheck to paycheck.
"If that vehicle gets towed to a storage lot, that customer could then go to that storage lot, pick up the vehicle and just pay the fees for the storage lot and I'm out my money."
Saniuk admitted that the ordinance proposal was not perfect and needed revision.
"You write an ordinance with the best of intentions and then there's these unintended consequences that could come up," she continued. "And it's very difficult to think of every scenario that could possibly happen if you write the law this way."
Bellevue City Council is expected to vote on the ordinance on April 14th. In the meantime, Saniuk said city council members would visit with auto repair shop owners to hear their concerns.
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