MARINETTE — The Marinette City Council began its 2019 on Tuesday by recognizing some of its departed employees for their service, helping a new auto body shop in the city get one step closer to a conditional use permit and looking forward to a new life for the Community REC Center’s removed wall panels. 

Mayor Steve Genisot, Executive Director of Recreation & Events Gavin Scray and Recreation Director Kent Kostelecky presented recently-departed Assistant Recreation Director Terri Florek, who served the city for over 34 years in the Recreation Department, with a service award plaque to commemorate her work. Genisot thanked her particularly for her work on the free playground program and Kids Day. 

“Since she’s left the city, she refers to the work she does in the city as ‘redirection’ instead of ‘retirement,’” he said. 

Genisot also noted that long-time Department of Public Works (DPW) employee Pato Thyne, who served the city for 40 years, had also retired and would receive his plaque at a later date as he was not able to attend Tuesday’s meeting. 

The council approved three pay requests for the Community REC Center following the commendations, one of which was a $2,930 invoice from MJB Industries to move the replaced exterior panels and store them in the city garage for re-purposing. Genisot explained that the decision to keep the panels for future projects came after heavy discussion about the city’s needs. 

“We’ve talked about some needs for DPW, as well as a police garage,” he said. 

Genisot added that the final decision for the panels’ use will come after the city makes a “firm commitment” on whether or not City Hall will be staying at its current location or moving to a new site. 

Finally, the council voted unanimously in favor of amending Marinette Zoning Code to add an “automobile body shop” as a conditional use for land zoned as a B-1 Local Shopping District. The recommendation to do so came after the city’s Plan Commission was approached by Eric Gutknecht, owner of Eric’s Auto Body LLC at 315 County Trunk T, who sought the conditional use addition to the ordinance for his business. City Attorney Jonathan Sbar explained that there was a miscommunication and the zoning issue was discovered after Gutknecht opened his shop. 

“When Prestige Auto Body (a neighbor to Eric’s Auto Body) opened in the 1980s, that area was zoned “Light Industrial,” and an auto body shop was a permitted use in a Light Industrial area,” Sbar said. “Then in 2009 we did a city-wide revision of our zoning code. The area was re-zoned to ‘Local Shopping.’ Auto body shops were not a permitted use in a Local Shopping district.” 

A public hearing about the conditional use addition was held prior to the City Council meeting, during which a neighbor of Eric’s Auto Body, Jerome Camps, expressed his dissatisfaction with the way the notice for the hearing and the ordinance change was handled. 

“You put this ad in the paper, and you had no address on it so a person didn’t realize where it was,” he said. “Now I find out it affects the entire city, the way the zoning is read into law right now.” 

Camps claimed that the zoning change in 2009 did not notify land owners in the Local Shopping district about the change. He asked if there was criteria to be followed for the permitting process, and whether or not Gutknecht’s business met them. 

“Did they inspect any other shops, did he meet any of the requirements, did he have all of the permits,” Camps said. “I just find it hard that you’re letting it go this way.” 

Tim Stauss, vice president and business banking officer of Stephenson National Bank & Trust, said during the public hearing that he believed Gutknecht had followed all of the right channels to open his business and met all requirements. 

“I just want to clarify that,” he said. “Eric knew that when he bought it, because we had an appraisal done.” 

Ward 8 Alderman Jason Flatt noted that other chemical-intensive businesses, such as gas stations and paint stores, are allowed in B-1 Local Shopping Districts, and Ward 2 Alderman Jeff Skorik clarified that a conditional use requires all instances of an auto body shop opening on B-1 Local Shopping Districts to receive a permit from the Plan Commission. After no further discussion, the council voted unanimously in favor of the conditional use ordinance change.