FORTVILLE — An April trial date has been set for the owner of a Vernon Township auto salvage yard county officials allege has repeatedly breached an agreement with the county for parking and storing vehicles outside his property.
In a complaint filed in January, the Hancock County Board of Zoning Appeals seeks to force Fortville Auto Salvage and owner Jeff Frazier to stop parking cars along the roadside. The business is at 9972 N. CR 50W.
Court records show that in 1997, the business and the county entered into an agreement requiring solid fencing along the north and east boundaries of the operation and prohibiting any parking outside the fenced property along CR 50W.
However, in its complaint the county alleges Frazier has repeatedly violated the terms of the agreement by allowing salvage, customer and employee cars to be parked along the road outside the fenced perimeter.
Last April, the county issued a notice of violation to the business, giving it 30 days to come into compliance.
Frazier appeared at the BZA’s January meeting to discuss the issue, and the board agreed to put a hold on the lawsuit to give Frazier additional time to comply.
At its Feb. 28 meeting, however, county planning director Mike Dale reported Frazier had created parking areas outside the perimeter, and the BZA instructed its attorney to schedule a trial date.
Frazier said Tuesday he was unaware of the pending trial and thought the issues had been resolved.
“It’s news to me,” Frazier said. “As far as I’m concerned, when I went to the (BZA) meeting at the beginning of last month, there were no longer any problems. I put in a parking lot and no-parking signs.”
Frazier said he moved his fence back from the road to create a parking area; however, with the reconfiguration, parking still occurs outside the yard’s fenced area in violation of his agreement, county officials say.
For his part, Frazier said he was unaware of the agreement’s prohibition against parking outside the fence when it was signed in 1997, and enforcing the clause essentially makes him “a police officer.”
“I was duped into that agreement,” Frazier said. “There was nothing in there about me being a policeman telling people they can’t park along the road. I didn’t know that.”
Frazier said he doesn’t understand why county officials are concerned about roadside parking along lightly traveled CR 50W in light of roadside parking along the county’s busier thoroughfares, including those in Greenfield.
The property has been used as a salvage yard since 1955, and Frazier purchased the business in 1984, he said.
The area surrounding the business is zoned agricultural, and running a salvage yard is not a permitted use there, Dale said.
As such, Frazier’s agreement with the county set boundaries and conditions for the operation as a non-conforming use, and that’s what the county is seeking to enforce, Dale said.
“The county is not at all interested in shutting him down,” Dale said. “We’re just interested in having him comply with the commitments in his agreement.”
The complaint also alleges the operation has racked up over $58,000 in accrued fines; however, BZA attorney Gregg Morelock said the court would most likely impose a lesser, more “equitable” sum should the county prevail.
Morelock said the county remains hopeful that a mutually agreeable resolution can be reached before trial with a time certain for the business to comply.
The trial has been set for 1 p.m., April 9 in Hancock County Superior Court 1.