Body shop use allowed without permit in city

COVINGTON — The city of Covington’s legal team has decided a special-use permit is not required for an auto repair and body shop to continue to operate at the former Covington Ford site.

An application for a special-use permit to run such a business at the site was considered by the City Council in February, but was ultimately removed from the agenda following legal counsel.

Although the city’s code of ordinance requires a special-use permit in the corridor mixed use district, where the property is located at 3172 U.S. Highway 278, the permit is not required because the property has had the same use since the 1960s, prior to zoning being established, and is grandfathered, according to Assistant City Attorney Frank Turner Jr. If the use ceases to exist at that property for six months, then a special-use permit would be required before the use could resume, he said.

Covington planning staff believed a special-use permit was required because when Covington Ford was located on the site, the auto repair and body shop was an

accessory to the primary use of the auto dealership, but now the body shop is the primary use, Senior Planner Scott Gaither said. Covington Ford moved to the Covington Bypass in 2010 and the primary structure was torn down, but the body shop remained and a new tenant, Precision Body Works, occupied the facility and the auto repair and body shop then became the principal use.

According to a staff report from the Covington Planning and Zoning Department, when approached by city staff, the tenant presented a letter from Wendell Crowe, owner of Covington Ford, stating they were operating under Covington Ford’s occupational tax and “after further discussion the tenant explained that he did not want to apply for a Special-Use Permit and risk being denied. Therefore, in being sensitive to the business community, staff acknowledged the use as an accessory. It is now staff’s belief that the current tenant is in no way associated with Covington Ford and, therefore, operating an unlicensed and unpermitted business from this location.”

Gaither said there’s no way to know if the employees with the body shop were included in Covington Ford’s reporting of its employees, which determines the amount of the occupational tax.

Asked about the legality of such an arrangement, if one exists, City Attorney Ed Crudup stated that, “The issue is whether the use of the property is legal, not the operation of the business.”

A new prospective tenant, Todd Hudson, is seeking to operate a similar business from the site, and applied for the special-use permit to operate “his own lawfully licensed business and not under the auspice of Covington Ford,” according to the staff report.

Prior to the application going before the City Council, the Covington Planning Commission was split 3-3, with the Chair Lee Aldridge breaking the tie to deny the request for the permit.