City approves Freedom Motors move one block

ALPENA – The Alpena Planning Commission approved a special use permit Tuesday that will allow a used car business at Ripley Boulevard and Washington Avenue to move to a less congested site.

Shortly after the business opened in September 2012, the city began receiving complaints about Freedom Motors because cars driven by customers were blocking access to Duffy’s Computers next door.

The city also became worried about inventory blocking the site lines of motorists making a right turn from Ripley onto Washington. Several complaints also were made about cars crowding the sidewalks.

City officials originally allowed the company to keep 27 cars on the sale lot, but after the complaints, they reduced that number to 20 and were more specific about the site’s use.

For a more permanent solution, Maren Kieliszewski, company president, filed a petition with the planning commission, asking if she could convert company-owned property at Washington and Charlotte into an outdoor car sales lot. It is about a block west of the present location.

Freedom Motors was using the rundown greenhouses and buildings to clean and repair used vehicles for sale at the highly visible Ripley site. Once a car was cleaned up, repaired and displayed with highlighted signs on the lot, it could sell in as little as a day, she said.

Tuesday’s approval of the special permit eliminates two problems, planning commission officials said. One is elimination of the congestion at Ripley and Washington. The second is improvement to some unsightly buildings and greenhouses on the property that Kieliszewki’s company bought as a foreclosure in 2009.

Kieliszewski said once a building permit is obtained, crews will tear down the plastic-sided greenhouses, renovate the buildings, pave a portion of the lot and make other required improvements by Oct. 1. Then the Ripley site will be vacated and the cars will be moved and sold on the renovated property next.

The commissioners unanimously approved the special permit, with 11 conditions attached. Among them:

  • cars on display must be set back three feet from the sidewalk
  • only 30 automobiles will be allowed to be displayed at the new site at a time
  • the company must develop a surface water retention plan or pay a tap fee so storm water can be drained from the property
  • signage and lighting must comply with city ordinances
  • six-foot, screened fences or appropriate vegetation must be set up as buffers between the business and residences in the area
  • visibility at the corner of Washington and Charlotte must be maintained

City Manager Greg Sundin recommended the approval and said the company would have to request another special land use permit if they want to repair cars for sale at the new site. Such a permit wasn’t requested at the time because the company was negotiating to buy a collision company or rent a collision repair site where the work could be done. However, those efforts have not yet panned out, Kieliszewski said.

Meanwhile, the company uses the services of Alpena Car Care, Andy’s Transmission and Alpena Collision, she said.

Kieliszewski said she was pleased with the city’s efforts.

“We just want to do this the right way, to beautify the area and make sure everything is in compliance,” she said.

Kieliszewski said since opening, Freedom Motors has sold 300 cars to area residents with no or poor credit. The company offers secondary sub-prime financing, which means buyers pay higher interest rates to offset the risk. Those rates start at around 4.99 percent and can go as high as 20 percent, she said.

The company also employs 18 full and part-time workers.

Betsy Lehndorff can be reached via email at or by phone at 358-5693. Follow Betsy on Twitter @bl_alpenanews.