MARYLAND HEIGHTS, Mo. (KMOV.com) -- Neighbors in Maryland Heights are voicing concerns over a transmission-selling business being run out of a backyard.
Chris Harper lives about a mile from the property and thought it was a junkyard up until recently.
“I think if you’re dealing with the public, and they are, they’re right in the public’s backyard, it should be regulated to keep everyone around them safe,” Harper said.
News 4 found out the business, R.W. Kaiser, purchases transmissions from other junkyards, then sells the aluminum casing. The business has been operating out of a two-acre home backyard for 43 years. Owner, Chris Kaiser said the family-run business has supported them for years.
“I work the hours I want to work, I work the days I want to work. If I want to work a holiday, I’ll work a holiday,” Kaiser said.
The home is located on McKevley Road near Interstate 270. Kaiser showed News 4 nearly 4,000 transmissions sitting in the backyard. Some neighbors expressed concerns over leaking fluid. Kaiser said the EPA has inspected the property before, but not for three years.
“We maintain the oil, we collect it. We have tables that we work on that have drains that drain into a bucket and when the bucket is at a level we take it and dump it into a bigger tank and the oil is picked up by a company,” Kaiser said.
The City of Maryland Heights confirmed to News 4 the business isn’t required to abide by the city’s zoning code. Since city and county code were enforced after the business began, it is a rare exception to the rules. City Planner, Michael Zeek, said the city’s hands are tied.
“It not only predates our zoning code, but the county zoning code as well,” Zeek said
In 1990, the City of Maryland Heights sued the Kaiser’s and lost. News 4 received the judge’s order from that case saying it’s both “constitutional and legal, pre-existing non-conforming use.” The order goes on to say the city is “prohibited from further prosecution.”
“That's why we've been unable to take zoning or code enforcement action against this property,” Zeek said.
The city said the EPA could take further action. News 4 reached out to the EPA to find out how often the property is regulated, but is still waiting to hear back.