This particular local story is one that hits home. I grew up in a family of small business owners. My grandparents had a diner. My dad started a tool & dye shop. Running a business is hard. A big piece of small town ownership is that of the ‘town’. Over the last 24 hours, we received messages about Roger’s Wrecker Service & Auto Repair. Located in the City of New Buffalo, Roger’s has been around for 18 years. From tow service to auto repair to every car thing you can imagine, there are countless first-hand experience of how Roger’s helped somebody. Roger’s also goes to the local weigh stations and takes care of their needs. And it’s not just immediate ‘local’ services.
With being so close to Exit 1 and I-94, Roger’s is called on by police, other communities and partners to assist with a myriad of auto and semi related things. During the busy summer months, Roger’s assists towns up and down The Southeast Shore with car related needs.
Roger’s also owns the property to its right, The Wheel Inn Restaurant. They use this for storage of vehicles, materials, etc. With me so far? Great.
There is also a small ‘street’ between these two properties. The street leads to the woods.
We learned of an unfortunate twist of events that has Roger’s and Crew in a situation that isn’t ideal for any business owner. Part of why we started The Southeast Shore is to provide a more first-hand account of what is going on from a resident’s point of view. We all know that city logistics with ordinances, planning and meetings can be tricky.
That’s why I went down the road and met with Roger and Alison Lijewski to understand their take on what is going on. Below is a summary of our conversation.
As mentioned above, Roger’s Wrecker Service & Auto Repair has been in business for 18 years. It is located on the south end of Whittaker street, right near the border of where the City meets the Township. Before we go into what Roger’s and team have done to take care of things the City of New Buffalo requested, let’s review a bit of the process it takes to be a towing AND auto maintenance company. First, the obvious: cars. If/when Roger’s tows a car and that car doesn’t have insurance, it needs to sit at Roger’s a for a bit. The police department that required the towing needs to then come down to Roger’s, begin paperwork, try to find the owner and eventually may need to get the car sent to the scrapyard. This can take 20-30 days. Roger’s doesn’t choose to have cars ‘waiting’ on its property. The appropriate channels need to be followed.
About two years ago, New Buffalo’s City Manager began meeting with Roger’s and mentioned a series of things that needed to be amended, specifically because of the cars and other items that needed fixing, per inspection (including some ventilation issues).
Roger’s completed the following:
New site plan
Setting up meeting with Planning Commission
Created 12 copies of the plan, along with the application for approval
Attempted to work with the City to create a fence around the property
Cleaning the property up, per the inspection (they had 10 days)
Meanwhile, you may wonder, why didn’t Roger’s tell the public what was going on? In our opinion, why should they? If you are a private business and the City asks you to take care of a few things, you handle it. There is no need to tell people your business dealings.
Fast forward to present. After all the preparation, documentation and attempts at having a meeting with the Planning Commission, Roger’s went to New Buffalo Township about possibly relocating. At present, the Township is looking to see what can be done/crafted for Roger’s to relocate somewhere near Exit 4. As of this week, Roger’s learned that after another closed door session, The City of New Buffalo found The Wheel Inn to be in violation of ordinances - too many cars. Thus they will likely face more citations on their property next door while they wait to see if moving to New Buffalo Township is a possibility.
Which brings us to a series of questions we can’t help but to ask:
Roger’s is on the main thoroughfare into downtown New Buffalo. If this is a matter of the property not being ‘pretty’, why can’t Roger’s put up a fence?
If the City wanted to move the business, why hasn’t there been any proactive, casual meetings between Roger and the Mayor or City Manager… months ago? Something as basic as a ‘Hey, we should talk and would like to talk about the future of the town’. (If this was actually brewing for a while)
With a business that is such a staple to the community, why does it appear that things were rushed and/or made difficult for Roger’s. Upon reviewing the materials and the dates, Roger’s completed ALL of the tasks required by the City Manager.
Has the City considered how the proximity of Roger’s assists with holiday visitors and the plethora of parking challenges bestowed upon the City?
In our opinion, so much confusion can be mitigated, both public and municipal, from the simple action of open dialogue and working together. If the City of New Buffalo had concerns with Roger’s and its purpose, why make it appear that things are being rush to move Roger’s? And is the rationale for the move solely a decision of the ‘city’ that is the council and City Manager?