Judge to determine future of auto repo yard WOODCREST:
A county lawsuit seeks to close the business, claiming it operates illegally.
10:00 PM PDT on Monday, August 28, 2006 By JOAN OSTERWALDER
The Press-Enterprise RIVERSIDE -
A judge said Monday that she will decide next week the future of an auto repo and storage yard in Woodcrest that authorities contend is operating illegally.
Riverside County Superior Court Commissioner Joan F. Burgess listened to testimony on Monday on whether to shut down Secured Collateral Management & Recovery.
Riverside County alleges in a civil lawsuit that the repo yard is operating illegally and it is seeking an injunction against the business.
The repo yard began operating in July 1997 by leasing the site on Iris Avenue that housed a backhoe-rental business. In 2002, Timothy James Williams bought the property with his wife.
The repo yard's attorney, Charles Schultz, claims the operation is permitted under the current zoning and doesn't need a plot plan because it was grandfathered in through the backhoe business and a previous repair shop.
He also alleges the repo yard's application for a plot plan was automatically approved after the county failed to timely process an appeal.
Williams testified that he doesn't have the money to relocate his business, which employs about 14 people. The county claims that since 1983, a zoning ordinance requires that any business, other than certain agricultural uses, must get a plot plan approved. Deputy County Counsel Patti Smith said the business can't be grandfathered in because there was no evidence that the backhoe business was permitted and the only permit issued at the site dates to 1969 and was for a repair shop.
Smith also said the county's delay in processing the appeal didn't result in the plot plan approval because Williams failed to give public notice.
"The county is not without heart," Smith said. "We are chagrined that there are employees that will lose their jobs." The county became aware of the repo yard in late 2002 after nearby residents complained about Williams' business. Williams, 34, said earlier that he was being discriminated against because the neighbors don't want a black-owned business, although that issue did not come up in court. He said there are other businesses in the area.
He said his gate and car have been spray-painted with racial slurs and his mailbox has been vandalized. He said he filed two restraining orders against his neighbors because he claimed they were harassing him, but a judge told him to try to get along with them.
Debbie Kruse, 47, who lives nearby, said race is not an issue. Kruse, who was not the subject of the restraining order request, said cars and trucks were coming and going night and day, annoying residents, making noise and polluting the area. Residents signed two petitions asking the county to shut down the business, she said.
"They would fly around this corner," Kruse said. "They had no respect for anybody living here." Williams applied for a plot plan when the site was designated light-industrial, Schultz said. While the application was pending, the county in October 2003 amended the general plan, which changed the property's designation to rural residential. Williams then applied for a general plan amendment.
Both applications were denied. The county filed suit in June.