By LeAnn R. Ralph
COLFAX — Now that the Colfax Village Board has approved a zoning change from public use to Commercial B2, Cedar Country Cooperative can move forward with their plans for the old fire station and rescue squad building.
The Colfax Board of Zoning Appeals recommended approving the zoning change at a meeting February 11, followed by approval from the Colfax Village Board at their meeting later in the evening.
Ken Bjork, representing Cedar Country Cooperative, spoke to the Colfax Zoning Board of Appeals about the cooperative’s plans to turn the old fire station into a car repair shop.
Cedar Country is planning to move the car repair shop from its existing location next to the convenience store and then plans to tear down the existing car repair shop, remodel the convenience store and move the gas pumps to accommodate more vehicles, Bjork said.
Technically, Cedar Country has enough gas pumps at the corner of Main Street and Railroad Avenue for eight vehicles, but realistically speaking, only about three vehicles can fit into the space to buy fuel at any one time, he said.
The old fire station will become the Cedar Country repair shop, and the old rescue squad building will be used for storage and eventually could be used as an “overflow” for growth of the repair business, Bjork said.
The fire hall is expected to have two or three repair bays, and the rescue squad building would be used for additional bays if and when they are needed, he said.
Cedar Country plans to remodel the old fire station this winter but has no plans to remodel the old rescue squad building right now, Bjork said.
Mike Kiekhafer serves as chair of the zoning board of appeals and Gene Gibson and Mark Mosey also serve on the zoning board.
Zoning board members wondered how many vehicles would be parked and stored on the lot by the old rescue squad and fire station.
No vehicles will be stored for long periods of time and would only be stored overnight or for several days while waiting for parts, Bjork said.
“We don’t want it to be junk yard,” he said, noting that Cedar Country currently employs three mechanics in the car repair shop.
“We’re not planning to change the shop business … we just want to create more room,” Bjork said.
Cedar Country will not be adding additional gas pumps at the location on the corner of Main and Railroad but will be spreading out the pumps for easier access and to make more parking available for the convenience store, he said.
“We have a bottleneck, and we don’t want to get rid of the location for the convenience store,” Bjork said.
Kiekhafer also asked about signs that would be put up for the new repair shop.
Bjork said he did not have specific information about plans for signs but assured the zoning board that Cedar Country would not do anything without the full approval of the Colfax Village Board.
“We don’t want an intrusive thumbprint,” he said.
The repair shop currently is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., and the hours would remain the same in the new location. The only lights that would be left on would be smaller lights for security purposes, Bjork said.
“We do not want a 24-hour service shop … we’re trying to be as easy to get along with as we can be and be good neighbors,” he said.
Bjork also noted that Cedar Country does not have any plans to increase the height of the roof on the old fire station but is planning to replace the roof.
The fire station is not an ideal location for the car repair shop, Bjork noted.
The ideal situation would be to find a piece of property and build everything new, except there is no property available along Main Street of sufficient size with an existing driveway, and the Wisconsin Department of Transportation will not allow more driveways to be added along state Highway 40, Bjork said.
Cedar Country Cooperative also had looked into building a new convenience store between Dollar General and the car wash, but access would have to be from the back street, and that also did not create an ideal situation for a convenience store, he said.
“The perfect situation is build new … but location, location, location,” Bjork said.
Gibson wondered if moving the repair shop to the old fire station was a permanent solution or only a stop-gap until another solution could be found.
“I don’t see that happening. We spent a lot of money to purchase (the property) … plus it will be a lot of money for the facelift for the fuel,” Bjork said.
Cedar Country Cooperative purchased the old fire station and rescue squad building last May at auction for $240,000.
Right now, people are sometimes waiting to buy fuel at Cedar Country Cooperative and then leave when they have to wait too long, Bjork noted.
Once all of the necessary permits are in place, Cedar Country will start construction on the old fire station and will move the shop before starting work on the convenience store and gas station, he said.
The Colfax Zoning Board of Appeals unanimously approved recommending that the village board approve the zoning change.
The Colfax Village Board unanimously approved changing the zoning from public use to Commercial B2.
The zoning change will go into effect upon official publication in the Colfax Messenger.