Fairfield wants to stop junk cars from collecting outside businesses

Fairfield is updating some of its zoning code definitions and regulations, and most of them will add new and revised regulations to the motor vehicle industry.

The city is proposing to modify the definition of a motor vehicle, and update the code surrounding auto repair and service businesses, impound lots and junkyards.

“We’ve been seeing a change in the last couple of years of our auto repair businesses that are coming into Fairfield and operating,” Fairfield planning manager Erin Lynn said. “They’re basically operating as your normal auto repair where you can go in and get your car fixed, but we’re also seeing them have a secondary business where they buy wrecked vehicles from auctions and they fix them up and sell them.”

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She said many of the vehicles and parts can sit around long term and are damaged, inoperable and/or partial vehicles, and vehicle parts.

“We feel that this business model is not a good business model in Fairfield and that we’ll start to have a negative effect on the surrounding businesses,” Lynn said.

The proposed changes include:

Service facilities have the primary purpose of performing routine maintenance of motor vehicles, such as oil change and tire changes that may also include related retail sales. They would not be permitted to store or repair any unlicensed, partially dismantled or inoperable vehicles. They would also be a conditional use — which is an approval by the city’s Planning Commission with conditions — in the central and general business and downtown districts. Lynn called the changes for these industries as a “tweak.”

Repair garages have the primary purpose of general auto repair and auto body repair, including collision services. They would be permitted to have up to 10 unlicensed, partially disassembled, wrecked or inoperable vehicles stored on site. The recommendation is to change it from a permitted use in the general business district to a conditional use in general business and industrial districts.

Storage areas, or impound lots, are not defined in the zoning code, or where lots can be located. The city is recommending the property is to be used by a towing company, wrecker or similar company meant for temporary storage of operable vehicles, or inoperable vehicles designated for transport to a repair garage or junkyard. Lots can have up to 10 unlicensed, partially disassembled, wrecked or inoperable vehicles stored on site. They will be permitted in the general industrial areas as a conditional use.

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Junkyards would not include auto-wrecking yards, and would be permitted to have 10 or more unlicensed, partially disassembled, wrecked or inoperable vehicles kept or stored on site. It would remain as a conditional use in the city’s general industrial district.

Other zoning changes are being proposed by the city, including portable storage containers in the city’s commercial districts.

Instead of constructing an addition, or investing in the business, they’re buying or renting storage pods or containers, she said. She said they add no taxable income, and if there are too many on site permanently, they start to look “pretty unsightly.”

The city proposes to allow them temporarily, not to exceed 90 days within a year. They’d be permitted for up to 180 days for construction and remodeling projects.

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The city is also considering:

• Regulating rain barrels as they’re becoming popular in residential districts. The city aims not to allow them in front and street-side yards, and they cannot be taller than 6 feet from grade or more than 100-gallon capacity. They must be earth tone colors, and any interconnected barrels must be screened. The proposal is prompted by some complaints about the barrels.

• The city is proposing to increase the number of dogs and/or cats over 4 months old is permitted “in a structure or lot” to four and not be considered a kennel. Under city regulations, the pet limit for households is two dogs and/or cats over 4 months old.

• Night clubs would be defined as “including but not limited to” bars, lounges, taverns, dance halls and pool halls that serve alcohol and provide entertainment, such as amplified music, dancing, table games, video games and/or other live entertainment activities. Any restaurant providing entertainment after midnight would be required to get a conditional use.

City Council will hold a second reading on the proposed changes at its 7 p.m. Nov. 25 meeting, and consider approval at its 7 p.m. Dec. 2 meeting.

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