LORAIN — A local businessman is suing the city after his rezoning request was denied in November.
Joseph Burda, owner of American Auto Wrecking Inc., filed a suit against Lorain’s chief building official, Richard Klinar, the Zoning Board of Appeals and the city, alleging the city’s new zoning code is unconstitutional.
Burda owns American Auto Wrecking Inc., 3618 Elyria Ave. The property has been a salvage yard for generations, and Burda bought it from Michael Berger in February 2017, according to the County Auditor. Court documents allege the property was a nonconforming use when Burda took ownership and that he maintained continuous occupancy of it, along with making “substantial investment” in the maintenance and improvements of it.
Court documents state American Auto Wrecking Inc. is an internet-based salvage operation, specializing in F-150 broken-down pickups purchased from insurance company salvage brokers and stored on the premises. Parts are sold online, and the yard does not “generally acquire and store junk cars.”
Burda had petitioned the city for a zoning change for parcels included in the property from B-1 to I-2 and R-3 to I-2 in November after the city would not renew his salvage license under the nonconforming use, claiming its status had expired or was deemed abandoned/discontinued for more than one year. Burda requested the zoning change, which was denied by the Planning Commission and City Council. Following his denials, the Zoning Board of Appeals reportedly refused to hear his appeal in October and December.
On Dec. 26, Burda filed an appeal to the Common Pleas Court regarding the Zoning Board of Appeals.
When presenting to Council in November to request the zoning change, Burda had said there was a 10-day discrepancy in his licensing, initiating the rezoning request.
“My form said expires May 3, we renewed May 24 or 25, which was in May,” Burda told City Council Nov. 19. “The license itself I think expired May 15, so there’s a 10 day (discrepancy); it wasn’t mentioned on the letter when to renew.”
Council members had expressed concerns in November regarding longstanding problems with the salvage yard, including potential environmental hazards.
Court documents state Burda filed for a salvage license around May 24, but the city “neither issued nor denied the license,” but told him it was to be renewed on or before
May 15. The suit claims the city previously told Burda to renew the license on or before May 30 after it passed inspections by the fire and building departments.
Throughout the ordeal, the suit states, Burda has continued to operate American Auto Wrecking Inc. as a lawful nonconforming use abiding by Lorain’s building, safety and fire regulations.
American Auto Wrecking is not Burda’s first foray into salvage yards.
Burda was arrested in May 2017 for city code violations, according to previous reporting. Violations included improper storage of combustible materials, noncompliant storage, inadequate means of egress and improper fueled vehicle storage. He was charged for violations on a Grove Avenue property which he later sold to purchase American Auto Wrecking. He had applied to have the original property rezoned so it could become a salvage yard, but that also was denied by the Planning Commission and City Council.
Calls to American Auto Wrecking and Lorain Safety/Service Director Dan Given were not returned Thursday evening.