Fargo officials release documents related to home-based car business in residential neighborhood

Courtesy: City of Fargo
Courtesy: City of Fargo

(Fargo, ND) -- The City of Fargo is laying out a timeline of events that they say occurred at the residential property that was granted a Special Use Permit for an auto repair shop.

City officials say the special use permit was granted in 1984 to John Bultman for an auto body shop in the residential zone. The license was limited to work done within the garage in the rear yard, and had strict terms; including the banning of auto sales and requiring of work to be done within specific times of the day, no other employees being permitted, no body work or painting, and no "stacking of autos" in a nearby alleyway. 

"In summary, the Special Use Permit provided that an auto mechanic shop only may be operated out of the garage of the property, "said documents released to WDAY Radio.

An update to the Land Development Code in 1998 converted the Special Use Permit into a "legal non-conforming use", which would be maintained as long as the property was "being used in accordance with the Special Use Permit terms." In 2003, the city alleges multiple violations were reported to the Planning & Development Department, and a notice of the violations were sent to the property owner. The list of violations included alleged expansion and increased intensity of use of the property done by the operator, and says they were not within the boundaries set in 1984. 

In the documents sent to WDAY Radio, Fargo Officials say multiple other events further complicated the legal non-conforming use. This includes the property being converted to a rental, alleged stacking of vehicles in the nearby alleyway, and several code violations. The violations presented by Fargo include "numerous junk vehicles, vehicles parked in the front yard, barrels of possible hazardous materials stored on the driveway, sign code violations and property maintenance deficiencies." The alleged violations can be found in the photos below.

Fargo officials assert the violations are the reasons why Bultman and his brother met on December 20th, 2022 in the documents, and say they came to an agreement with the two individuals. "At that time, the City believed that the tenant understood the City’s position and further that he agreed to voluntarily cease all commercial activity by March 30, 2023, allowing him time to complete the work for current customers, after which the property would be brought into full compliance with the Land Development Code of The City of Fargo."

Due to public outcry and threatened litigation between the city and Bultman, Fargo officials officially met again with Bultman for the purposes of discussing the official closing date of the business at the property. The meeting was held today behind closed doors in an executive session. In the end, city officials said "they wished to resolve the matter short of litigation" and authorized the mayor to continue negotiations.

Bultman is expected to be able to continue operating out of his business until he retires once he turns 70 in August. This is a developing story, stay with WDAY Radio as more details become available. 

Courtesy: City of Fargo
(1 of 5) Courtesy: City of Fargo