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Main Street lot owner in no hurry to meet town’s cleanup order

Northern Alberta town at odds with property owner over old cars set up as a tribute of sorts to vehicles in Disney’s Cars movie.

ST. PAUL, Alta. - One man’s trash is another man’s treasure may be a fitting statement that sums up the current situation a St. Paul man finds himself in after having been served with an enforcement order by the Town of St. Paul to clean up his Main Street commercial lot.

It is impossible not to drive along the street without noticing the lineup of old vehicles on the corner of  50th Ave and 52nd St.  Set up as a tribute of sorts to the character vehicles depicted in Disney’s Cars movie, including Lightning McQueen and Tow Mater, these vehicles in various states of disrepair have become a thing of beauty to some and to others an eyesore.

Kelly Prymych is the first to recognize that while not everybody may appreciate his attempt to bring some joy to passersby, there are hundreds of people that do and that he says is evidenced by the “overwhelming support” he has received to his social media post responding to the Town’s cleanup order.

“I won’t back down from what I said,” Prymych said Wednesday afternoon of his social media post that begins with: “Town of St. Paul ORDERS Tow Mater, Lightning McQueen and friends lives to be crushed. The Town of St. Paul claims to be a ‘Peoples Kind of Place,’ which is far from the truth. The Town Council and the Designated Municipal Enforcement Officer take it even farther to make it NOT a ‘kid-friendly kind of a place. When you drive through town with your children, grandchildren, nephews or nieces, they ask where Lightning McQueen, Tow Mater and the crew go? Please tell them that The Town of St. Paul does not welcome them to stay any longer.”

Prymych has gone so far as to set up an online petition in support of his display and as of Thursday afternoon had over 1,800 signatures. He has also erected signs on the lot stating: “Town of St. Paul forces Tow Mater and friends lives to be crushed.”

Town CAO Steven Jeffery said the municipality sent Prymych a directive on July 15 to remedy the unsightly aspects of the property and “remove, not crush, dangerous and derelict vehicles,” following an inspection of the property.

In the order, which Prymych also posted to his social media, the Town indicated “the property in its current state is detrimental to the surrounding area which includes causing the decline of market value of property in the surrounding area.” Additionally, it notes the area “shows signs of a serious disregard for general maintenance or upkeep.”

Jeffery confirmed the Town has received complaints about the property in recent months. He said it is unfortunate the matter has blown up on social media to the extent that it has, and he is particularly concerned people believe the Town wants the vehicles crushed. Nothing could be further from the truth, Jeffery said in an interview with Lakeland Today.

“There has been quite a lot of misinformation in the short timeframe that it’s been published or made public and a few things that have certainly not happened the way they should have, being that things have been posted that are actually personal information – not okay actually,” Jeffery said. “We will move through it, and we’ll deal with it, but the fact of the matter is there is quite a lot of misinformation happening.”

He added, “Nowhere did we say that all vehicles on site need to be crushed. Not true. We said the aspects of the property that are unsightly need to be remedied and the dangerous, be it dismantled parts laying around – the kind of wreckage effect – needs to be removed because, first of all, it’s dangerous, unsightly and the use of that property is actually not following what it is zoned for.”

Jeffery said there is obviously an outpouring of support on the property owner’s side to have the character vehicles displayed. However, he also said it is important to note that the condition of the site now is “very different from the condition of the site when the order was delivered. There has been a lot of clean up that has taken place and then pictures have been taken now, posted, and here we go.”

The order was served following onsite inspections which included photographs of the lot at that time.

Prymych confirmed he has done some clean up at the lot but claims it has been minimal. “All I’ve done is reorganize stuff and clean up the garbage that other people have dumped on it, so the littering.” Asked if he felt the vehicles, in their current state, pose a safety hazard to the public, Prymych said absolutely not.

“If they have concerns of them being a danger that would be from either people vandalizing them or they would be just as dangerous as vehicles that are parked at Zarowny’s, Lakeland Chev or Dodge or even at the Canadian Tire parking lot.”

Jeffery said Prymych is well within his rights to appeal the enforcement order to the Town, which he said had not occurred, adding there are proper channels to follow, and the Town will not enter into a social media back and forth with anyone.

“We have not heard from the owner of the property. Entering into this inflamed situation on social media is just not how municipalities do business. We are held to a different standard and keeping things factual and basing our decisions on bylaws that are in place and rules that we need to follow,” Jeffery said.

The CAO said he welcomes Prymych to contact him in order to discuss the matter with council, adding there is a process in place to appeal an enforcement order.

“Come in, tell council what your aspirations are, and council can then have the chance to ask questions and then, maybe, there’s a common ground. I’m not sure, that is for them to decide. Those attempts have been unsuccessful so far so I’m not sure if anybody plans on reaching out to have that conversation, but I would remind them that you can’t just come to a council meeting and speak, you need to register with me to get on the agenda.”

Asked if he would take the opportunity to speak to council, Prymych said he would, although he expressed reservations about the process thus far saying he had requested a review of the judgement.

“I followed exactly what they requested by filling out all the information so that they can’t manipulate me in saying I didn’t do the proper proceedings to appeal this,” he said, adding he has already expressed his position pretty clearly in his public social media post.

“There’s some people who really don’t like me, there’s also some people that don’t like vehicles, there’s also some people who don’t like flowers . . . it doesn’t mean that the town shouldn’t have flowers. Right?”

As it stands, the enforcement order allows Prymych 45 days from the issue date of July 15 to comply with the town’s directives.