Wright City

Wright City denies zoning change that would have brought 'junkyard' to Roelker Road

By Jason Koch, Editor
Posted 2/29/24

Wright City MO officials denied a request to rezone a section of land in the city so that Copart could bring its car auction business to Warren County.

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Wright City

Wright City denies zoning change that would have brought 'junkyard' to Roelker Road


Wright City aldermen denied the rezoning of a section of land on Roelker Road so that Copart could bring its business to the city.

Several Wright City residents opposed the business and spoke against the zoning change during a public hearing at the Feb. 22 board of aldermen meeting.

Copart had requested that Wright City change the land from its current MR-1 light industrial zoning to MR-2 heaving industrial zoning.

Copart says it specializes in the resale and remarketing of used, wholesale and salvage title vehicles for a variety of sellers. It currently has more than 200 locations in 11 countries and has more than 175,000 vehicles up for auction every day.

That didn’t stop residents from classifying the business as a “junkyard.”

“I just don’t see a junkyard producing a vibrant community,” Jeff Waller said during the public hearing. “I don’t see that if you’re going to build a school on a local road and try to modernize that and make it look right, I don’t know that that suits your progressive view of the community. … So if your long-range plan for Wright City is growth, I would not want to be living in a neighborhood that has a junkyard next door.”

“If we want to be a growing community, we need to add homes, schools, stores, restaurants, not a junkyard that will make our city an industrial park, not a great thriving community,” Donald Goodman said during the hearing.

That sentiment was echoed by every public speaker, though Mike Freeman, who was there to represent the company, disputed that Copart was a “junkyard.”

“We don’t dismantle anything at all,” he said. “The car sells as a whole car, so we don’t do any mechanical. We don’t do anything to the vehicle but just store it.”

He also said that there would be no run off from fluids because those would be removed from the car before they were placed on the lot.

But he did say there would likely be “16 or 17” trucks a day that would use Roelker Road, prompting concerns about student drivers at the new high school.

There were also concerns that the increased truck traffic on Roelker Road could cause issues at the railroad crossing.

“We’ve been fortunate up to this point that we’ve not had any railroad accidents of any significance,” former Wright City Mayor Dan Rowden said. 

“But if you’ve got 16 or 17 vehicles coming through that intersection when you’re already making sharp turns to get there and then make another sharp turn, if the train is coming, we create again another safety hazard for our citizens and for those who travel the rails.”

While city officials shared those sentiments, for Mayor Michelle Heiliger, there was another significant issue.

Heiliger asked if Copart had already purchased the land it was seeking to rezone.

“There’s no way that we can buy the property and just hold on to it without actually utilizing it in our operation,” Freeman said.

That response did not sit well with the mayor.

“You’re asking the city to commit to a decision that will impact us for years to come, but you haven’t made a commitment,” she said. 

“So that to me is telling. Like, we want you to do what we want you to do and then we’ll give you what you want. But up to this point, we just want you to give us what we want. That, for me, is a challenge.”

Board of Aldermen President Ramiz Hakim also was not in favor of the zoning change, and praised city residents who came out to speak against it.

“I am extremely happy with the demeanor and posture of our citizens to be able to have,” Hakim said. 

“It’s a difficult conversation. I don’t think every municipality shares necessarily in that culture as a community. And I think that speaks to us because these are difficult conversations that affect us greatly.”

Aldermen then voted 3-0 to deny the zoning change. Alderman Don Andrews was absent.

Many members of the audience applauded after the change was denied.

About the author: Jason Koch is the editor of The Warren County Record, and covers local news and government for the newspaper. He has won multiple awards from both the Indiana and Illinois APME and from the Illinois Press Association. He can be reached at 636-456-6397 or at jason@warrencountyrecord.com

wright city, zoning, copart, deny, roelker road