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Back You are here: Home News Local and State News Local Planning Board Votes No On Town's Request For Storage Yard

Planning Board Votes No On Town's Request For Storage Yard

By WILLARD KILLOUGH III
Managing Editor

CAROLINA BEACH - The Town of Carolina Beach has to relocate their Operations Department (Public Works) from land owned by the U.S. Army off Dow Road. The Town's Planning and Zoning Commission voted to deny the Town's request to use other property on Spartanburg Avenue in a quiet residential neighborhood at their September 13, meeting.
The military land was leased to the Town in the early 1970's by the Army with a condition that it only be used for a wastewater treatment plant and associated uses including a storage building and outside storage area. Over the years other uses became routine on the property. Earlier this year the Town was notified they were in violation of their lease and had to remove all uses not permitted under that lease. The Army is demanding the Town comply by the end of 2012. The "buffer zone" is land owned by the U.S. Army for the Military Ocean Terminal at Sunny Point (MOTSU) across the Cape Fear River in Brunswick County. The port deals in ammunition and the buffer zone serves as a "blast zone" in the event of an incident. The zone covers the largest area of land west of Dow Road in Carolina Beach, Kure Beach and Fort Fisher.
The Town was given until the end of June to present a plan for compliance to remove items stored for auction, multiple storage buildings, FEMA trailer, marine vessels, generators, undercarriage water station, maintenance shop and multiple dumpsters and retention pond.
Owens advised the Council in August that one option would be to get a zoning permit to relocate a "lay-down" storage area near Greenville and Spartanburg Avenues on residential property currently owned by the Town.
Other locations included adjacent to Town Hall or by renovating a small building behind the recreation center for Operations employees. Another option discussed was to alter the layout of offices within Town Hall to accommodate Operations employees entering and existing offices in the rear of the building. That would shift administrative offices into an open atrium in the center of Town Hall that could be modified for additional office space.
Other options included moving an existing modular office trailer behind Town Hall and converting Council's conference room into space for employees.
Owens said those options require time which is limited. He said the ideal solution is to purchase land and relocate everything into new buildings. But that would also take time, money and approval by Council.
A short-term option would be renting space in a local shopping center until a long-term solution can be reached.
A plan to comply with the lease by the end of the year was submitted to the Army a few weeks ago and as of September 18, Army Corp officials had not responded.
The Carolina Beach Planning and Zoning Commission considered at their September 13, meeting an application by the Town to the Planning Board to amend zoning definitions to increase allowances for government facilities to include outdoor storage in all zoning districts as either permitted by right or by conditional use permit.
The Commission voted unanimously to recommend Council deny that zoning amendment.
Then they considered the request for a conditional use permit (CUP) to locate a "Government Facility – develop a storage yard for Public Works and Public Utilities, 617 Spartanburg Avenue."
Planning Director Ed Parvin said the Commission would still hear the CUP request because Council may or may not agree with the Commission's recommendation to deny
the zoning amendment and if they adopt it, they would proceed with considering approval of their own CUP permit on Spartanburg Avenue.
The 24,972 square foot property at 617 Spartanburg is bordered on the western and southern sides by undeveloped land located within the MOTSU Buffer Zone.  Developed residential properties border the proposed facility on the east and Spartanburg Avenue right of
way is the northern border. The purpose of this facility is to provide the Environmental and Stormwater Departments with a location to store supplies, materials, equipment and tools.  Each department will have designated storage sheds within the fenced in area that will contain various supplies and tools.  This
may include items such as small tools (shovels, hammers, screwdrivers, etc.), small pumps, fittings, concrete mortar, nails, screws, painting supplies, wood, tarps, signs, Christmas lights, small drainage materials and other various equipment.  Single story storage buildings will be spaced relatively close together for space conservation. 
Access to the property will be limited to the 11 Environmental Division employees and 6 Stormwater Division employees.  Small numbers of workers will enter the area periodically to retrieve the supplies.  Only minor projects will be completed on site.  For example, workers may assemble a park bench that would then be delivered to a public facility.  At the end of the working day, the storage area will be locked
and secured.  Entrance into the area, beyond working hours (after 4:00 pm), will be negligible and very infrequent. 
Parvin said the impact of the Town storage yard is less than if someone developed nine residential units on the property.
Commissioner Brett Keeler expressed concerns with employees working at early morning hours such as 6AM.
He asked if other locations had been considered. Parvin said Council has met numerous times examining options but
other locations would require purchasing land.
Keeler said he feared it would set a precedent when telling business owners they can't enjoy the same right. Parvin said it's totally different because it's a government operation.
Keeler said, "It could happen in your neighborhood next" because land for government uses in Town is limited.
He said, "These are things that private business people go through all of the time and there's no real empathy towards the Town on the fact that backs are against the wall and this is what we need to do. It's not that this is the best option, this is the quickest, easiest, cheapest option and I don't think that in the long term planning of the Town this in the best interest."
He said business owners are often told their business can only open in certain zones and in this case it's the Town asking for an exception to the rules.
One resident said their property values are already down 20% and if it's approved three of their bedrooms and kitchen will be looking down
upon the storage yard. They said eight homes would be better than a storage yard for property values.
Another resident said fencing doesn't help because their homes are elevated on pylons where even the first floor would look down on the storage yard.
Property owner David Bass said his property is 30 feet from the gate to the yard. He said it would drastically impact their residential property values. He prefers residential homes rather than a storage yard.
Adjacent resident Dottie Herman summed it up saying, "This just stinks."
The commissioners generally agreed the proposed storage yard is not in harmony with the neighborhood and there are likely options elsewhere in Town that could be purchased or rented in the short term that are more suited to such a use.
The Commission voted unanimously to recommend the Town Council deny their own conditional use permit for the storage yard citing the permit does not meet required findings.
The most notable is that the location and character of the use if developed according to the plan as submitted and approved will not be in harmony
with the area in which it is to be located and in general conformity with the Town Land Use Plan and Policies.
The Town Council will consider the permit at their October 9, meeting.