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Florida officials force Corky Yager to say bye-bye to his Beetles

Jeff Glucker January 18, 2012 All Things Hoon 55 Comments

Zoning laws can be a bitch sometimes. Just ask Leroy “Corky” Yager who lives near Dade City, Florida. Corky is the owner of Sunray Bugs, which has been described as a Disneyland for Volkswagen enthusiasts. You don’t have to pay $50 to get inside like the aforementioned theme park, but you could be leaving with any number of parts for your VW should you make the trek to Corky’s place.

At least, you could’ve…

After a drawn out bit of litigation, Corky is being forced to remove hundreds of Volkswagens from his property. Back in 2009, a neighbor complained to the city that the property, a 10-acre parcel playing host to dubs in various state of disrepair, was an eyesore. Although Corky’s property is zoned for commercial purposes, it’s not ready to host a junkyard. Though the Yager family prefers to call the grounds a Volkswagen graveyard, county officials beg to differ and stick by the verbotten J word.

The official ruling to clear the property of vehicles came in August 2010, and Sunray Bugs had until December of that year to clean-up the land. They missed the deadline, and then missed it again, forcing the county to come in and finish the job. It took them six days to remove an estimated 200 tons of metal… which was just half of the nearly 800 cars laying about the land.

Corky, his family, and his employees plan to meet the next deadline for car removal set by the court. The team is feverishly stripping the cars of any viable parts, and everything else will be sent to the scrapper.

[Source: Tampa Bay Times | Image: VintageCarTalk.comThanks for the tip, Ray!]

  • PowerTryp

    Does this burn anybody's ass as bad as it does mine? The people who complained are probably new to the area and checked out their new land once. So now a guy who's had a business running for a long time and has a close following is forced out of doing what he loves to do his way.

    Maybe I'm still bitter over the fact that our racetrack here was shut down due to the city flexing it's might against a mainly volunteer operation.

    • acarr260

      I'm with you! I would bet that the scenario that you described is almost exactly what happened. I think it's a shame. Of course, I would probably enjoy living next to that guy.

    • MrHowser

      My uncle bought a farm in Tennessee about 20 years ago, and used it as a farm in addition to being a pilot. He always had a few dozen livestock around, so it looked and smelled like a farm.

      A development company bought the vacant land next to his farm, and built a subdivision. When people moved in, the smell and sight of farm life was apparently bad enough that the new homeowners made a formal complaint to the local government authority.

      The authority told them "You moved in next to a farm. The farm was there first. Deal with it."

      • FЯeeMan

        that's like the people who live near a small metro airport not too far away. The airport was there for many years before all the housing went up. When the airport wanted to put in a crosswind runway, the residents complained about the potential for noise. I'd hate to see a pilot lose his life over it, but that would point out how stupid the residents are.

      • PowerTryp

        That's how it should work.

      • mr. mzs zsm msz esq

        Good for your uncle, unfortunately it does not usually go so well when people move in wanting to play country. It's a real sore spot for me. Watch them incorporate next and then force annex your uncle's land. Heck if they don't get away with that they might try and charge him with what all the upgrades cost which the developer did not pay for. You know how loud and smelly chickens are? Here the people in city limits are now allowed to have chickens. Thankfully the coyotes are taking care of all the chickens that have been getting out. no people a rabbit hutch will not make a good chicke coop. Idiots. Though it's unnerving for me to see the coyotes around in the winter, they used to only be around for the goslings. Anyway these are the same people that complained about the cows, sheep, pigs, and honeybees nearby. Really they complained about the beekeepers but won the right to have chickens, those nasty smelly loud … ugh! They caused such a trouble that now there are no large animal vets nearby, so they got their wish anyway. Again all this is a sore spot, poor Corky, all it takes is one bad neighbor, a rotten apple to spoil the whole bunch.

      • I've seen the same thing happen many a time. In fact, it happened here in Tombstone, right in town. There are range cows on the leased land behind town, in the mining district, and they found a section of fence on City property that was down, and were wandering around in some old fart's carport and leaving the occasional cowpie. Disaster! Panic! Now, we (the mining company) have cows here in town on a 10 acre parcel, nicely fenced in. Of course, we get the irate phone calls (the old fart in question even dresses like a cowboy, hat, boots, the whole nine yards). Sorry, nope, not our cows. They're all present and accounted for. Arizona's an open range state, which means that if you don't want loose cows running around your yard, you have to fence them out. The City finally got off of its collective ass and fixed their fence, no more cows. Still, this guy moves here from Chicago to be a dimestore cowboy in Tombstone, and is afraid of a cow standing there by his pickemup truck when he goes to get into it one morning. I love it.

    • danleym

      Same thing happened in Jacksonville a while back. There was a drag strip and circle track that had been around for years, way out in the boonies, and then a bunch of housing developments went up nearby. The idiots who bought houses a half mile away from a dragstip (Literally, they were just over the fence, not even trees between them- there's no way those people didn't know what they were moving in next to) started complaining, and the city shut down the racetracks.

      It really bugs me that you can own your own land, for years, break no laws, and the government can still come in and dispose of your property, because a few asshats think it's "unsightly."

    • tonyola

      This does not appear to be the case here. I checked the Pasco County property appraiser records and historical photos. The property in question is in a commercial/light industrial zone and is zoned "Service Shops – Non-Automotive". The only nearby residential properties are a couple of single-family parcels adjacent and to the east. The parcels have been owned by the same parties for a long time, and there appear to have been no major changes to the layout of the area since 1994 so new development is not involved. There are no other junkyards anywhere in the vicinity. Until around 1995 or so, there were only a few vehicles on the Sunray site. The vehicle count jumped dramatically around 1995 or so and they were scattered in a grassed and wooded area with little apparent regard to order and no attempt at clearing an open space. In short, vehicles appeared to be literally dumped at random.

      Now it appears in photos from 1995 through 2009 that Sunray was parking quite a number of junked vehicles on vacant portions of the adjacent residential properties – in fact, apparently quite close to the houses.

      While it's sad to see a resource go, I can't feel too sorry for Sunray in that:

      1. They were operating a junkyard in violation of long-standing zoning codes.
      2. There appeared to be little regard for property lines on Sunray's part.
      3. The place really is kind of an eyesore according to Google Street View.

      <img src="http://i42.tinypic.com/jkbvaq.jpg&quot; width="500/">
      <img src="http://i40.tinypic.com/295xz78.jpg&quot; width="500/">

      • good sleuthing

        • tonyola

          Thanks, but this is the sort of thing I kind of do for a living. I perform a lot of Phase I and II environmental site assessments on properties on behalf of buyers and lenders, and investigating prior land use issues is part of the job. In fact, the Net has made it a whole bunch easier – even ten years ago I would have to actually go to the various offices and agencies to dig up the info.

      • Scandinavian Flick

        I guess that goes to show that there are two sides to every story. As unfortunate as it is, that would probably bother me as a neighbor as well…

      • FЯeeMan

        Who the heck are you to bring logic, common sense and reality into our collective little rant?

        Begone with you, we want to whine about the "anti-car" people!!!

        /hates it when the neighbors are right… 🙁

      • PowerTryp

        Well, open mouth insert foot. I hate to see a resource like that lost but it truly seems like he was in the wrong now that I have all the info.

        Thanks Tony, you're a swell fella.

        • tonyola

          The problem with granting variances to zoning is that if word gets out, then you get sticky situations like "Well, if you let Sunray keep their junkyard, why can't I operate my 24-hour strip club next door to the elementary school?"

          • PowerTryp

            Slightly different moral precedent there but it's easy to see where you're coming from. Plus it's not like they're shutting down his business, just making him clean up his junkyard.

          • Platform Bigot :)

            Zoning bigot! So dull … and narrow ….

      • Van_Sarockin

        It might pay to see what the zoning was at the time they started accumulating Bugs. Preexisting Nonconformities are your friend. That would mean that they could continue to do business as they have been, but would present obstacles in expanding/increasing the operation, or selling it as a business to another party. It also looks like an instance where some fencing could do wonders. But at this point, there's probably grumbling about oils and other contaminants getting into the ground and water column.

      • Steve Varick

        @tonyola. Good internet detective, but you missed a couple of key issues. Your sleuthing does not accurately portray the reality on the ground. For instance, actually, there are 6 salvage yards all within 8 miles of the area: Best Auto & Truck Recyclers, Sunshine Corvettes, Bud's Wrecker Service & Salvage Yard, Surratt Auto Salvage and Veterans Auto Salvage. Not to mention a variety of other automotive related businesses, body shops, tire shops, trucking companies, car lots, etc.

        1. They missed being grandfathered in by only 6 months, part of the argument.
        2. You did not include the other 3 parcels surrounding the highlighted area that are part of the 10 acre property. Instead you assumed incorrectly the vehicles were dumped there illegally when in actuality the company leases all of those parcels as well.
        3. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder… Have you "Street Viewed" the area surrounding Sunray? This is a very rural and somewhat depressed industrial area and the yard does not look out of place at all in the area.
        4.) The complaint was not from a neighboring residence, but came as the result of another business being picked on by the county saying "what about this guy? He's doing it too."

        So, I have to agree with FЯeeMan. Let us gripe about The System encroaching on our personal liberties.

        • PowerTryp

          In Tonyola's defense it was me who assumed it was residences who made the gripe. He just corrected my false assumption that it was new people. He was just trying to get more of the story for us.

          You seem to have more of the story than the rest of us do, please inform us so we know.

        • tonyola

          1. Eight miles is a very large radius – far larger than the area of my concern. There are no scrap yards in the immediate vicinity or within a half-mile radius.
          2. A six-month miss is a good as a mile in issues like this. As I implied elsewhere, allowing variances on grandfathering opens up a can of worms.
          3. The parcel immediately east of the highlighted area is zoned "08 – Multi-Family – Less than 5 units". Even if Sunray was leasing that property, it would still be a code violation to use it as a vehicle dump.
          4. I did Street View the vicinity. While the area won't win anyone's "Beautiful Neighborhood" award, Sunray still sticks out as being singularly unattractive at least in my opinion. The heavy truck repair shop at 16100 – north of Sunray – looks far tidier from US 301. http://g.co/maps/agvt3
          5. This isn't exactly a Homeowners Association griping about the exterior paint on a house being a wrong color. Planning and zoning boards exist for a reason, and this one is not requiring Yager to shut his business down – all he has to do is remove the junkers that were in code violation. There is also the potential environmental issue – improperly-run scrapyards can have truly nasty amounts of soil and groundwater contamination. Permitted yards are required to remove batteries and fluids from junked vehicles. Did Yager do that? As for personal liberties, can I build a slaughterhouse next door to your home?

  • OA5599

    It's a shame to see that those parts resources will be squashed like, uh, bugs.

    I hope Corky finds a creative use for the property that complies with all laws but irks the neighbor.

    • pj134

      A guy in my area had a building he wanted to tear down but the county wouldn't let him because it was a "historical landmark" (rather shitty looking big old building). So, he painted it in vertical stripes of about 40 different colors and made it a strip club. He said he would keep it to piss them off until he died.

      I guess he died because it's just a crappy looking white building now.

      • pj134

        For anyone interested, Streetview hasn't been around in a while so…

        • dukeisduke

          That's a historical building? Whoa! What's historical about it?

          • pj134

            No idea, it's Bucks county though. We here in Bucks county like to make it impossible to tear down any building that is from the mid-1800's or earlier. So the county calls it historic or any other of a hundred labels and you can't get a demolition permit.

            That paint scheme was his answer… Too bad they painted it, because it probably would have been historic in another 50 years.

        • OA5599

          Titus Avenue, huh? And a strip club with a takeout door–whoda thunk?

          • pj134

            The take out door is for trunk-side service. Just pull up and they'll pop em in.The Titus ave part went over my head though.

            • OA5599

              The "u" is silent. Or preceded by a hyphen.

              • pj134

                Every god damn time you get me with an unexpectedly simple and awesome three words that go over my head.


                • OA5599


      • Lauren Bailey

        FYI, florida doesn't care about historical buildings either. Haven't you read about the Belleview Biltmore? They are tearing it down http://savethebiltmore.com/ and it seems that government is in support of the condos replacing it. Just a snipet of its significance from wikipedia:
        "The 820,000 square feet (76,000 m2) hotel structure is the last remaining grand historic hotel of its period in Florida that exists as a resort, and the only remaining Henry Plant hotel still in operation. The building is noted for its architectural features, with its unique green sloped roof and white wood sided exterior, and extensive hand crafted woodwork and Tiffany glass inside. It is said to be the largest occupied wood frame structure in the world, and is constructed of native Florida pine wood."
        Last of it's kind and the largest in the world… but who cares, lets tear it down and build condos! Go Florida!

  • Van_Sarockin

    10 acres is a lot of VWs. And it's a shame to see them rotting away in the sun and humidity. I wish I could go and complain about some ugly-assed buildings, and get them out of my sight.

  • Jim-Bob

    If it's the place I am thinking of (I can't imagine there being 2 VW yards off 301 in Dade City) then I have been there. They had a split window bug on some sort of lift visible to the road for all to see! What a shame that all of those VW parts will soon be destroyed. It reminds me of the guy in Great Brittan who had a farm yard full of Trabants he was forced to get rid of a few years back. I'm a fan of both cars and hate to see them destroyed by middle class schmucks who have no appreciation of other people's property rights. It also makes me worry that Pasco county will make me get rid of my parts Metro and Frontier that are sitting next to the swimming pool in my back yard.

    • craigsu

      Here in Charlotte you aren't allowed to keep vehicles parked on your front lawn. If you want to keep a derelict parts car in your driveway it has to have tires that are kept inflated.

  • I dont remember the last time you can get in at Disney World for a mere $50

  • dukeisduke

    I'm sorry that Yager's gone through this, and that the cars are gone, but he should have been more proactive about salvaging and cataloging parts, and he shouldn't have put vehicles on his neighbors' properties.

    • Sunray Bugs

      Just to clarify… There were no vehicles parked on neighbors properties. That information came from an inaccurate post by a third party. Thanks.

      • Lauren Bailey

        They were, accidentally on a neighbors yard at one point, but once that was pointed out you cleaned them all up, remember?

        • Sunray Bugs

          I was talking about as far as the reason why the original complaint came in. There was no complaint from our neighbors and no accidental encroachment. I think the neighbor you are talking about is an absentee owner with whom Corky had a very good relationship with and he gave Corky permission to use his property over the years. In return, Corky mowed and weeded his property and even removed a large tree and disposed of the remains of it for him at no charge after a storm came through and blew it down. This neighbor was the same guy that received a call from the county contractor who represented himself to the neighbor as code enforcement in an effort to scheme and defraud Corky out of about 180 cars that had temporarily been staged there so that the heavy equipment could be moved in. The county contractor attempted to seize those 180 cars, by scaring the neighbor into complying and signing an agreement to have them and only them remove the cars. This is all documented and there are many many people who witnessed what we feel is not only an unethical act , but perhaps even an illegal one play out at ground zero that day in December.

  • Van_Sarockin

    Those aren't Bugs, they're features.

    • tonyola

      Heh – very good.

    • FuzzyPlushroom

      I wish I could give you another thumb up.

      • FЯeeMan

        gotcha covered!

  • Responsibly and legally operating a business is not trivial. It'd be nice if there were fewer rules about these things, but if you want to play, you need to pay by them. In particular, auto salvage can be extremely damaging to the environment if done improperly.

    Assuming there's not tons of oil and battery acid leaking into the groundwater, I, too wish there was a way for him to continue operating legally.

    The flipside is, he's known for some time that this was coming. I have a lower tolerance for those who make the most noise right as deadlines approach, or when the consequences of missing them pass.

    • pj134

      Freudian slip?

  • Will E Corgan

    If you were to do some more sleuthing you would find that the agent for the county has about 7 felony convictions and a multitude of other fraud-type charges… attempting to pass bad checks and the like.

    The salvage company contracted to crush the VW's operates out of a facility that is zoned residential.

    Corky Yager himself has described how they came in and "salvaged" his forklift and similar equipment, so he would have even more issue complying with deadlines.

    This is corruption in local government, through and through…

  • Brent Scharber

    Thank u for the clarification. As for the county agent with the felonies that's no surprise. As usual its not what you know, but who you know. There a lot of great people much more qualified for that position without the criminal background, but they don't know anyone in high places. I will be looking into the zoning for the salvage yard. If that's true then ill be contacting the county. Shame on the scrappers for "volunteering" to clear and crush the cars for free. Any idiot knows you can make a killing recycling 200 tons of steel. Corruption in Dade City is putting it likely. Me thinks 8 on your side and the Better Business Bureau would like to know about this injustice.

    • Lauren Bailey

      I would definitely like to see the county pay for this… But how do you put a price on something that is irreplaceable? Maybe they could at least pay Corky enough that he could retire? Not that I think he would. But if zoning gets corrected for him maybe he can at least keep all that is left?

  • Lauren Bailey

    I still think Corky was in the right and the county was in the wrong, but I am starting to get frustrated at copyright infringement. Can't ANYONE at least give me credit for MY pictures that are hosted on MY website? Maybe I should start my own lawsuit over this matter. I care about Sunray and I unlocked those pictures to be used for such, but come on, at least give a girl credit! This is at least the third site I have found them on now. Please correct. Thanks!

  • ksolarw

    Tonyola needs to get his facts straight,their is a recycling scrap yard less than 1/4 mile south,and the Sunray property has been a yard for more than 50 years,it was a tractor dealer when I moved here OVER 50 years ago,and has been repair shop w/ CARS-TRUCKS,scattered all over,If you are in business I sure wouldn't hire you because you sure don't know what the hell you're talking about,thats whats wrong every one is an expert on everything,and always in somebodies business.people move into an area and want to force everyone to live like they did up NORTH,

    • tonyola

      I don't think I'd want to work for you anyway – you're far too given to mindless ranting. First of all, a repair shop or tractor dealer is NOT the same thing as a junkyard, and is not permitted or licensed as such. Second of all, Pasco Recycling (15641 US Highway 301) – the site you're probably referring to – is a scrap metal facility, not a vehicle junkyard, and it appears to be a smaller (and far tidier) operation. Third, I've been investigating properties for land use, historical, and environmental issues for over 25 years plus I am a registered engineer, so I am an expert, bub.

      • pj134

        Looking at the map, there is a small junkyard on 14 about 3/4 of a mile south. Still outside your stated 1/2 mile radius.

  • Steve

    LOL! So true ksolarw. And everyone is a expert online. If I recall, the tractor dealer you are speaking of had a yard full of junk tractors that did not run. I think the attorney handling this case did not do his homework. If he had, this business would have been grandfathered in like many of the others in the area and we wouldn't be having this discussion. I also think it bitterly ironic that the county hires a felon to do their dirty work and the very company they hire is violating zoning laws themselves. Hell, they aren't even in a commercial area at all. The county should be embarrassed by the complete and total mismanagement of this issue.