Zoning ordinances may keep auto body shop from rebuilding after fire

GREENFIELD, Ind. - A family-owned business, which will turn 60-years-old in 2018, may have to find a new place if it wants to keep the business up and running.

Most of Mueller Auto Body was destroyed last month in a large fire with towering thick smoke.

While the owners work through the insurance issues, they've also found out that the city's zoning ordinances won't allow them to rebuild.

“We were grandfathered and we’ve lost that grandfather," said Matt Pheiffer, the manager of the body shop. "Basically to the letter of the law, we shouldn’t be allowed to rebuild there."

Pheiffer has worked for his parents business for five years and has spent the last three buying it from them. He's put up a temporary office at 1111 E. Main St. and the body shop is less than a mile away from there.

Besides running a family-owned business, he's also spending time finding a way to put the business back in the one spot its ever known.

“It’s an extra set of hurdles that you don’t really expect," Pheiffer said.

The city's zoning administrator, the business has gone through a re-zoning petition with the city's plan commission. It still needs the city's board of zoning appeals to grant several variances that would allow it to rebuild at its 1020 E. Main St. location. That is expected to be discussed in February.

“We’re asking the city for a variance and whatever conditions they would like us to meet, so we can re-build," said Pheiffer. "That’s what we are shooting for.”

At a plan commission meeting earlier this month, a few dozen supporters of the business were in the crowd. That included Ben Eaton, who also spoke in favor of seeing Mueller's get to re-build.

“This business has been around a long time and the city grew up around the business, not the other way around," Eaton said. "The city should grant them an exception so they can just rebuild their business. That’s all they’re asking for.”

He's one of 240 people to have signed a petition also supporting the effort.

“It's indescribable the amount of support," said Pheiffer. "We've gotten help from people who maybe have never really helped us like this before but saw us in need and wanted to help.”

Pheiffer said he hopes the insurance claim can wrap up and fix the building to allow the shop's office to go back into its original location within the next six months, even though the shop's fate hasn't been determined.