Auction runs into city zoning Troubles

May 22, 2007

by Ian Rollins, Albany Democrat-Herald

Jake Cheechov of Eugene wants to hold two farm-equipment auctions a year on vacant land off Three Lakes Road. The city of Albany won't let him because the property zoning doesn't allow the type of auction he wants to hold.

Cheechov and his wife, Amy, held an auction last Thursday, two months after receiving a letter from the city that such an auction was not allowed. Albany Police showed up afterward and cited the Cheechovs for violating the zoning code.

Cheechov owns Pacific Industrial Auctions, which has been in business for five years. He told the Democrat-Herald the company holds farm-equipment auctions across the Northwest, and he'd like to hold more in Albany because of its proximity to Portland and Eugene.

Cheechov said he wishes the city was more flexible. "I'm only here twice a year, and they put me in categories I don't fit," he said. "It's really by-the-book. They don't want to listen to common sense, they just do what the book says."

The land is actually two properties, 50 acres in all, owned by Rod Kempf of Eugene. Cheechov said he's leasing the land from Kempf. The properties are zoned industrial park, which only allows retail uses in enclosed buildings.

Cheechov said that's not possible because the auction includes farm equipment weighing 100 tons or more, which is too heavy for concrete or even asphalt.

He parks the equipment on gravel, which he said he brought to the site himself.

Last week's auction featured Bobcat loaders, excavators and other heavy equipment, as well as smaller items like pipe couplings.

Part of the problem, said Planning Manager Don Donovan, is that the properties are on Gov. Kulongoski's list of certified "shovel-ready" properties for industrial development.

"We put some time and money into that, and the owner put some time and money into it," Donovan said. "That's one concern, that it would be ready, should someone come along and want to build on it."

Cheechov's problems with the city began last summer, when he brought an office trailer to the property and took out a temporary electrical permit. Melanie Adams, assistant building official, said the city discovered the building after the electrical permit expired.

Adams said that Cheechov was told the building was considered an illegally sited manufactured home. Cheechov told her that he wanted to hold auctions on the property, so she sent him to the planning department, where he was ultimately told he couldn't have an auction.

Cheechov said he will have the trailer removed soon. The citations his business received were for conducting an unlicensed sale/auction and for violating the city development code. The development code violation carries a base fine of $500. Further information was not available on the other citation.

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