City zoning ordinances have complicated Mueller Auto Body Shop owners Michael and Deborah Pfeiffer’s efforts to rebuild after the business was destroyed in a fire that enveloped the plaza where it was located.
City regulations designate the area on the corner of Apple and Main streets as a Local Business zone, which does not permit businesses such as auto body shops or outdoor storage units, officials said.
An exception was made for Mueller decades ago, grandfathering the business in while city zoning rules were updated, Deborah Pfeiffer said. Rebuilding the auto body shop now would violate those regulations.
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Mueller caught fire Nov. 10, a blaze that burned for some seven hours and spread to the business plaza west of the business, damaging three other shops.
Now, all are working to rebuild. But for the Pfeiffers, starting over has been a challenge.
Dozens of concerned citizens crowded into City Hall during this month’s meeting of the Greenfield Plan Commission in support of the Pfeiffer family and its business.
According to city zoning policies, if the Pfeiffers wish to continue using the area as they have been, it must be rezoned.
The commission voted for the matter to be discussed in January with the Board of Zoning Appeals, said D.J. Davis, plan commission attorney.
Meanwhile, the family is running a temporary office at 1111 E. Main St. Their capabilities are limited, but they are able to write estimates, do minor repairs, glass work and some dent repair, said store manager Matt Pfeiffer.
Michael Pfeiffer bought the building in 1985. The building had been used as a body shop since 1957 and had been used for commercial purposes since the early 1920s, long before the existence of current zoning regulations, Michael Pfeiffer said.
Since the fire, the Pfeiffers have sought public support through an online petition asking city officials to help bring the body shop back to its former glory.
And their neighbors answered; more than 200 people signed the petition. One day after the post was made, some 70 people came to City Hall to show that support in person.
Pfeiffer’s neighbor, Jim Snellenberger, was among the supporters. Snellenberger has done business with the Pfeiffers for several years, knowing them through their mutual involvement in the Greenfield Rotary Club. Snellenberger said he previously served on a town council elsewhere and understands the complexity of zoning codes. But treating people fairly always comes first, he said.
“They’re my neighbors — why wouldn’t I support them?” he said. “I know we have ordinances, but rules like this are meant to be … bent.”
Matt Pfeiffer said he wants to continue the shop’s legacy as a family-run business — right where it started.
“It seems to be fitting to me to finish this whole project after this terrible tragedy, that we can come full circle and be there again,” he said. “To be successful there again would be a period on this sentence that would take forever to write.”