The Cary Town Council was split on a decision to allow development of a proposed three-story, mini-storage facility near downtown, but ultimately approved what one council member called the “Cadillac of storage units.”
The council approved the use with a 4-3 vote on Thursday, Aug. 4, to allow for a 63,402-square-foot location of Bee Safe Storage, a North Carolina-based company owned by Roy Carroll. It will be built at 9021 Chapel Hill Road, across the street from Lowe’s Home Improvement.
Mayor Harold Weinbrecht and council members Jennifer Robinson and Ed Yerha voted against the request.
“This is the third or fourth storage request we’ve had in a very short period of time,” councilwoman Lori Bush said. “In the past, I’ve been vehemently opposed. On the other hand, this seems like the Cadillac or Tesla of storage units, but if and only if the conditions are right for us.”
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Bee Safe Storage facilities in Greensboro and Raleigh offer climate-controlled storage rooms, wine storage, recorded video surveillance and more. More locations are coming soon in Asheville, Clemmons and Simpsonville, according to the company’s website.
Madison Carroll, Roy Carroll’s daughter, described the locations Thursday as high quality and architecturally pleasing with brick and stone facades.
“It is no coincidence that the exteriors of Bee Safe facilities look like upscale office buildings with upscale finishes,” she said. “The brick and stone exteriors add about $1.2 million to our cost per store, but the upscale and inviting exterior appearance is more important to the brand and our ability to obtain community acceptance in the markets where we want to open new locations.”
Representatives of the project highlighted the difficulty to build on the site for environmental and topographical reasons. The property owners, who have owned the property since 1986, have been looking to sell for 15 years with no success because of these issues, said Tom Worth Jr., a Raleigh attorney.
John Davenport, a transportation engineer representing the applicant, also said it would generate less traffic than anything else that could be built there. He said 15,000 square feet of retail would generate 10 times more traffic than the 63,000-square-foot self-storage facility, and if a drive-thru was on the site, it would generate even more traffic.
Bush and council members Jack Smith, Don Frantz and Ken George voted to approve the facility after hearing about its quality, the difficulty of developing the property and other possible uses.
“Having seen where it is, what the options are for other types of uses on this particular piece of property, the fact that Lowe’s is across the street, the fact that traffic is significantly less than anything else that could be there,” Bush said. “This pushed me over so I hope that we can see exactly what we’ve been promised.”
But the use was not approved until after the council added several conditions to address their concerns. That includes the following requirements: it can’t have more than 500 storage units; it can’t generate loud noise; and it must be substantially similar to the sketch plan presented, in order to ensure that what is built looks like the facility presented to the council.
“We’ve had situations where an applicant has come and said, ‘I want to do this great thing. It’s going to be so beautiful, and you’re going to love it,’ ” Robinson said. “And we all get attached to the concept. Then the economy changes and something happens. They pull out and then we end up with something that’s a lesser quality.”
Despite the new conditions required of the developer, Robinson said she still couldn’t support it.
“I personally, I don’t like self-storage units in general,” she said earlier in the meeting, adding that she would rather see the project in more of an industrial area. “It is, in the end, a very gigantic box in what is considered a fairly residential area, and I think people who move into that area would not have expected a storage unit to be built near them.”
Several residents, including Tiffanie Taylor of the nearby Taylor’s Pond subdivision, also shared their concerns about lighting, traffic, its proximity to downtown and a lack of need for more self-storage facilities in the area.
There already are four of these types of facilities within one mile and eight within two miles, Taylor said.
But because Thursday’s meeting was a quasi-judicial meeting, which is treated more like a legal proceeding, residents only could share observations rather than conclusions about traffic impacts, lighting impacts and more without testimony from experts like engineers or appraisers.
“We do not feel that it is a compatible fit for our community,” Taylor said. “National trends show that people want to be more connected. They want to live and work in an active and vibrant environment that makes it easier to be connected to friends and neighbors. We believe this development would do nothing to help our community achieve that.”
But Smith said he believed that self-storage facilities are a growing need.
“We are building smaller square footage houses,” he said. “People are desperate for storage. Isn’t that something we want for the quality of life of our people?”
Smith added that he believed the council should focus more on improving appearance standards when it comes to these types of facilities.
“I think the world has changed and storage units are becoming more and more critical or essential,” he said. “I just think our ability to keep up with that appearance is where our focus should be.”
Kathryn Trogdon: 919-460-2608, @KTrogdon