Meadowlark Storage closer to getting permit renewed
Issues with the gate clearance still unresolved

By Melanie Boyung - Special to Conley Media

Aug. 22, 2019

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 down.

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 given.

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.