GRAFTON — Despite an initial
permit denial, Meadowlark Storage in the town of Grafton has a
chance to get its permit renewed.
The facility, which opened on Highway W in 2017, sought to renew its
permit earlier this summer. At the July Plan Commission, members
tabled it, giving Meadowlark owner Laura Logan a 30-day extension to
come into compliance with the fire code.
A May inspection report from the Grafton Fire Department showed two
violations. The business’s gate had about 16 feet of clearance
rather than the 20 feet required by state fire code.
There was also a violation with the Knox box, a device that allows
emergency access, not being installed on the gate, and fire
extinguishers not being tagged properly.
“At that time, it was fully within the venue of the Plan Commission
to revoke their conditional use permit. After extended discussion,
the Plan Commission decided to give them a 30day extension of their
permit with the express conditions that they had to be in compliance
by today,” Town Board Chairman and Plan Commissioner Lester Bartel
said at the Plan Commission meeting Aug. 7.
Between the July and August Plan Commission meetings, the Meadowlark
Storage property was brought into compliance with town items, but
the fire code violations were not addressed.
The Plan Commission denied the permit renewal at its Aug. 7 meeting.
In the following week, the town’s legal counsel, Sara McCarthy, sent
a notice to Logan and her lawyer that the denial was given, and
further action would be taken, possibly including a cease and desist
order for the business. Neither Logan nor her lawyer attended the
July or August meetings.
Several days after the denial was noticed, Logan emailed town staff
and Bartel a picture of the gate being cut out. The removal of the
gate resolved the fire code violation pertaining to the gate
clearance, and a new fire inspection about a week ago confirmed all
fire code violations had been resolved.
Last week, the Town Board discussed the matter, and agreed to take
up the issue again next month. With the violations all being
handled, the Town Board agreed they could reconsider the decision on
the permit; Bartel has stated on multiple occasions that the Board’s
goal is to help bring businesses into compliance, not to shut them
Email records dating back to 2017 show the business was informed
that the gate had to meet state code, and the 16-foot planned gate
would be problematic for the required clearance.
In emails this month, Logan claimed that the 16-foot gate was
verbally approved by GFD Division Chief Matt Karpinski, though
Karpinski and Chief Bill Rice both said no such approval was ever
Rice said that the Grafton Fire Department rarely allows variances
to the state fire code, and when it does, it involves the variance
being requested before construction, not after, and an argued reason
for why the variance is needed. Rice told the Plan Commission the
department does not consider cost a reason for variance.
If the original decision is reconsidered, Meadowlark would be able
to continue business as usual. If the denial stands, Meadowlark
would have to reapply and go through the process from the beginning.
The appeal period does not affect the daily operations at the
storage facility. Customers are still free to come and go to access
their storage units.