By Katherine R. Dougan
Clinton’s Board of Aldermen tabled a request from Storage City of Clinton LLC for conditional use and a dimensional variance to construct two enclosed, climate-controlled self-storage warehouses on the Clinton Parkway; the Board also denied a request from StorageMax for a variance to build a climate-controlled facility on Northside Drive at that same meeting on November 2.
The Parkway property for the proposed facility, owned by Bruce Kirkland, is zoned C-2 for commercial businesses to locate there, and David Ash, the attorney representing Storage City, explained to the Board that the property is compatible with other properties in the district.
Concerns expressed by aldermen centered on the visibility of the buildings from the Parkway, as well as concerns that locating storage facilities there could be detrimental to other businesses in the area. Phase one of the proposed project would be for an 18,670 square foot building. The second phase of the proposed project is for a 60,821 square foot climate-controlled warehouse.
“Visibility is a key factor for me of whether or not I vote for it,” Ward 4 Alderman Chip Wilbanks explained to Ash. “I don’t think it is something that we want to see.”
In the rendering of the building, there are places in the façade that look like garage doors, which also concerned aldermen. Ash explained that those are not doors, but rather are a design element to break up the front of the building.
“Those areas are a different look, so that the building isn’t entirely all brick in the front view,” said Ash.
“So, it’s not a garage door – but looks like a garage door?” Wilbanks commented. “I would prefer it not to be that.”
“We can definitely consider other looks, for sure,” Ash said. He said the intent in the design was for the building to resemble a retail building instead of a storage facility.
“The look from the Parkway – it’s going to be really hard to see the buildings from the Parkway,” Ash said. The phase one building would be behind the St. Dominic’s clinic; the second building, phase two, would be located further away from the Parkway.
Ben Walker, who owns property near the proposed storage facility location, is planning to develop his land into a subdivision and is in favor of the storage buildings being located there. The area for the proposed location of the two buildings is in a flood plain, which makes the location unsuitable for homes or other types of businesses.
The location is behind property on Monroe Street on one side. The properties are also zoned C-2, with the possibility of future retail or commercial facilities to locate there. Two of the properties are privately owned, with homes currently located on them.
“What’s before the Board tonight is a conditional use as well as a variance. We talked about this some in our work session last night [November 1],” Ward 2 Alderman Jim Martin said. The conditional variance is required for a storage unit, because it is not generally compatible anywhere within a commercial district, Martin explained. “This parcel backs up behind what are now residences on Monroe Street.”
Martin provided background history of the area.
“A number of years ago, several of these property owners along Monroe Street came before Planning and Zoning and the Board of Aldermen and requested their residential lots be rezoned for commercial. My understanding was that investors bought up those rezoned properties, thinking that this whole area between Monroe and Parkway would be developed as a big, commercial-type project.”
In addition to rezoning the lots as C-2, the City later rezoned the Olde Towne District and included the properties on Monroe Street as part of the Olde Towne District, which permits both residential and commercial construction.
“If we permit storage units to go in there, it’s going to fill up the gap in there [between Parkway and Monroe], and the size of lots where houses are is not big enough for a [future] commercial development,” Martin explained. “By putting this in there, we are stopping and preventing the concept of that being developed for a commercial type facility to go in there.”
Martin pointed out that, once a person turns off the Parkway, at least one-third of the large building would be visible, including the parking lot for the storage warehouse, and that the smaller building, which would be used as the office for the storage facility, would be completely exposed to the Parkway.
“The bottom line is I think it is going to be a lot more visible than it is being represented,” Martin said.
The proposed large storage facility would have 550 units.
“There’s probably 550 people that might like to have a storage facility, but there’s probably 24,000 people that might like to have a restaurant or some retail there, too. I just can’t wrap my head around why that’s an appropriate place for a storage unit,” said Martin.
Board members stressed that they know the building will be well-built and will look nice; the issue is the visibility of the facility.
At the Board’s February 2 meeting, they unanimously approved a conditional use permit to Storage City LLC/Bruce Kirkland to build a 60,000-square-foot climate-controlled storage facility at the corner of Woodstone Road and Broadway Street in Clinton. When asked about the status of this facility, Ash replied that the builder learned another permit was required, for which Storage City LLC has since applied. Construction is set to be under way as soon as the builder gets the approval.
Ward 5 Alderwoman Beverly Oliver asked Ash if Storage City can provide a feasibility report to the Board, “the report to show that there is a need in our city.”
“My concern, and I did talk to Ben Walker … I told him personally I would not buy a house with the storage [facility]. It didn’t matter how high the fence or how much landscaping, if I’m paying $200,000+ for a house that’s right there with the storage,” Oliver said. Walker told her he didn’t think it would be a problem, because people want to live downtown.
“I live in Olde Towne, and I don’t think I would like a fence to hide what’s on the other side,” said Oliver.
Oliver said she is torn about it, because the land is a low-lying wet area, however, she would rather see a storage facility go somewhere else rather than near Olde Towne.
Wilbanks agreed with Oliver, saying he did not want to see a storage facility on the Parkway. Wilbanks suggested that the Board table the issue until the feasibility study can be reviewed, and there be more discussion about ensuring the facility will not be visible in any direction from the Parkway. There is a tree line on one side of the property that, if left intact, would hide the buildings from at least one direction; but the smaller building in phase one of the construction will be visible from other angles, and the fence surrounding the warehouse storage facility will be visible from other angles.
Wilbanks made the motion to table and asked that the builder provide a different rendering of the outside of the building that includes vegetation, different doors and a loading area that is not visible from the Parkway. He and Oliver also asked that the company review and provide their need/feasibility study, to make sure that Clinton really needs more storage facilities.
“I think, with some changes that maybe this will make us a little more comfortable,” said Wilbanks.
Following the motion to table the Storage City facility, the Board unanimously denied a request for a condition
al use/dimensional variance from StorageMax Clinton 5, LLC, owned by Storage Park Properties, LLC, to build a facility on Northside Drive, between Cynthia Street and East Northside Drive. The area is zoned C-2, and the parcel is located where Northside Drive and Cynthia Street split. The proposed building is 51,000-square-feet and two stories high.
Alderwoman Ricki Garrett, who was logged into the meeting via a telephone connection, expressed serious concerns about the proposed facility, because it would be a two-story split-level building that would be visible from all sides. The building would be located behind the convenience store that is located at the tip of the “triangle” where Northside and Cynthia meet. She also said it is not compatible with the adjacent properties.
“I do not believe that would be appropriate use for that site,” Garrett said.
“I agree with Ricki; based on the visibility of it and the height of it, it is not generally compatible with the adjacent properties,” Wilbanks said.
The Board voted unanimously (6-0) to deny the request from StorageMax.
Ward 3 Alderman William O. Barnett was not present at the meeting.