ST. PAUL, Alta. — Following an enforcement order delivered by the Town of St. Paul in late July, and a subsequent appeal of that order heard by council on Aug. 8 - a nearly-bare lot now sits at the corner of 50th Avenue and 52nd Street - previously the home of a number of vehicles made to look like Disney characters from the movie Cars.
The Aug. 8 Town of St. Paul council meeting started at 7 p.m., but council quickly moved into a closed session to discuss a legal matter, which also included the Town's Director of Protective Services, Fire, and Emergency Management Trevor Kotowich. The closed session lasted over 20 minutes, and when council resumed the meeting, they moved directly to a scheduled hearing with property owner Kelley Prymych.
The appeal hearing allows council to hear from administration and the landowner, and offers a space for council to ask questions. Council had the right to make a decision the day of the hearing, or at a later date, regarding the appeal.
Speaking first was Kotowich, who acknowledged that working in public office often comes with some negative experiences. But, he noted the recent publishing of private text messages that included personal information on social media by Prymych was simply a "cowardly" act.
Kotowich said it was because of a unique circumstance that he authored the order that was sent by registered mail to Prymych, requesting derelict vehicles be removed from the property. He also noted that the condition of the lot "today" is different than it was when the order was written. He also stated that at no point did the Town order vehicles be crushed.
But, incidents such as people being on the site at all hours of the day, and even going into the vehicles, had been noted in the past, relayed Kotowich, speaking to safety concerns.
Town CAO Steven Jeffery was asked if he had any comments to add, and offered a reminder that the order was part of a process that the Town must follow, offering the opportunity for both sides to be heard. In reference to a social media post made by Prymych after he received the order, Jeffery reminded those in attendance that the municipality does not do business on social media.
Prymych was then offered his turn to speak. He noted that when the order was sent by registered mail, he was working away from town and did not receive it until later in the month when he returned. Since the order was made public, Prymych says he has received plenty of calls and messages in support of the property and the vehicles on display.
He noted that he never referred to the Town requesting the cars be crushed, but rather "the lives of the cars would be crushed" by the order.
Prymych described the cars as "art" and part of his passion in rescuing history. Prymych also noted that as per the directions in the order, he felt he would be left with very little options about how he could use the land.
In October of 2020, an auto shop located on the property was destroyed by fire. The blaze was later found to be accidental. Since then, the lot often included a variety of old vehicles - many of them transformed into recognizable Cars characters such as Lightning McQueen and Tow Mater.
Prymych himself noted that the vehicles on the lot were often changing, which is what residents came to know. He noted that after losing the shop to the fire, and not having any insurance, the order from the Town felt like a slap in the face.
When offered the chance to ask questions, Coun. Nathan Taylor asked Prymych if any clean-up had been done of the site since the order was delivered. While improvements had been made, many of the vehicles were still in place, as of Monday evening. Prymych noted that according to the order, he felt he would have to remove all the vehicles, and had already started the process to move them to another community.
"The decision has been made already. You guys forced me out," said Prymych. And, by Tuesday afternoon, the lot in question was in fact cleared out and bare.
"If the community doesn't want the cars there... we will move them to another community," affirmed Prymych.
During discussions, Jeffery noted that he felt there was "quite a bit of misinformation" circulating in the public, given that the condition of the site was changed after the order was delivered. The CAO also noted that he felt "there very possibly is a common ground" that could be found between the municipality and the landowner.
Jeffery stated that the order itself was a way to open dialogue and create a timeline to work within.
Shortly after 8 p.m. on Monday, the hearing concluded.
Coun. Taylor then made a motion that the order stand, but also added that he felt the order had been satisfied with the recent changes that had been made to the property. The motion to allow the order to stand was carried.
A second motion acknowledging that the order had been complied with, to the satisfaction of council, based on changes made to the site, was also made but council opted to table the motion to allow for administration to have a site visit with the landowner.
A motion to direct administration to follow-up with the landowner was carried.