Small Town News


Day care proposed for AFU; Mike Motors moving body shop

The Ely Echo of Ely, Minnesota

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There's further movement afoot in Ely's business community, with a child care center proposed for the former AFU buildng and a local auto dealership set to move part of its operation from one end of town to another.

Both projects, which required the issuance of conditional use permits, gained approval from the city's board of adjustment and were addressed at Tuesday's regular city council session.

The city has approved John and Tanner Ott's request for a CUP, allowing a child care center to be operated in a district now zoned "multi-family residential."

That decision clears the way for the AFU building, which closed several years ago, to be transformed into a child care or day care facility.

According to meeting minutes, Heather Hohen-stein represented the Otts before the city committee and has been in contact with someone interested in leasing the property and operating a child care center.

The capacity of the facility, including how many children would attend, depends on state licensing.

Future plans for the facility include a possible, fenced-in play area for children, and perhaps a request to reserve some of the 10 available parking spots around the building for drop-off and pick-up.

Meanwhile, Mike Motors is slated to move its body shop operation from the Voltz Building, once known as "Pete's Garage," to the opposite end of town and the one-time car dealership building that now also houses Spirit of the Wilderness Canoe Outfitters and retail operation.

After considerable discussion, the board of adjustment unanimously approved the request to allow auto/truck repair and sales within a district now zoned for central business (CI), with conditions including a review in one year and that a common wall be inspected by the city's building official and brought into compliance with all regulations.

According to general manager Dan Ojala, Mike Motors' existing space at its body shop just off of Central Avenue is no longer viable. The business determined that construction of a new facility isn't economically viable, and that the move east provides a more desirable and visible location.

Approval was granted with committee members also looking to balance the concerns raised by the owners of Spirit of the Wilderness, particularly over the potential for noise, dust and fumes from automotive paints.

Steve Nelson of Spirit of the Wilderness also raised issues related to a common wall meeting fire code.

Don Hilligoss, general partner of Mike Motors, said that the body shop has operated at its present location for years without complaints, and said that too many restrictions could close the body shop, which has four full-time employees.

Committee members directed building official Doug Whitney to inspect the common wall and make sure it is brought into compliance.

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Original Publication Date: November 7, 2015

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