Board declines to recommend rezoning for storage units

Published 11:02 am Monday, August 20, 2018

A request from a New London property owner seeking a recommendation to rezone one of his properties was denied, possibly preventing the man from installing a planned mini-storage building at the site.

Jason T. Gallagher asked for 1.52 acres, currently zoned RA (Residential Agricultural), to be rezoned to HB (Highway Business) during the county planning board’s meeting Aug. 14.

Gallagher’s property is 4.25 acres, but he plans to keep a mobile home on part of the property where it was, simply adding the storage business to a different section of the tract.

Planning staff recommended the board approve the request, according to a memo sent to the board from county planner Bob Remsburg, who, during the meeting, said the planning staff feels the project would be “economically beneficial” to Stanly.

But the board listed several concerns with the plan, including a lack of detail in Gallagher’s stated plan.

Gallagher said he felt adding the 16 storage units would provide himself with a business opportunity and extend a service to the surrounding community, including students studying at Pfeiffer University who may decide to store items. While he didn’t have any solid customers signed up, Gallagher did say he knew someone potentially interested in renting a unit from him.

When asked if the area around the units would be fenced or if the driveway would be paved, Gallagher said they may be but he wasn’t sure. He said he had no plans to fence in the entire property and that while he may add pavement or concrete in the future, the driveway would probably remain a gravel one for now.

Two nearby property owners argued against providing the recommendation.

Ronnie Burleson told the board he felt the area was unsuitable for a business venture, saying the area is too remote to support a storage business. He was also concerned the units would have lax security, attracting thieves not only to that building but to neighboring properties.

Approving the request would engage in spot-zoning, he told the board.

He also alleged that the mobile home currently on the property is “not very attractive” and has windows broken out and canvas on the roof, causing him to doubt the aesthetics of a storage unit would be any better.

Board member Frank Sparger told Burleson that whether Gallagher’s business succeeded was only Gallagher’s business, adding that the concern was “noble.”

As for Burleson’s concerns that the location was too remote, Sparger said, “All growth starts somewhere.”

Linda Gilbert, who said she owns a property across the street from the site but lives elsewhere, also protested the storage units.

“My concern is that it’s a residential area, or farmland, and building a building like that is going to change the neighborhood,” she said. “And I’m opposed to it for that reason.”

Board member Terry Smith said he was concerned about Gallagher’s uncertainty about the fence and whether the units would be broken into, wondering if he had invested enough planning into the project. He also noted that with a Highway Business zoning code, Gallagher could then add other structures besides a storage unit if he chose to.

The board voted 4-2 to deny Gallagher’s application.

While the board did decline to provide a recommendation for the county commissioners to approve Gallagher’s request, Remsburg noted the property owner could still approach the commissioners without that approval.

Although board recommendations often do play a large role in council decisions, the commissioners do have the power to provide their blessing for projects the planning board rejected.

Gallagher did not state whether he planned to pursue his case with the commissioners.

Imari Scarbrough is a freelance contributor for The Stanly News and Press.