Fuquay-Varina’s Board of Commissioners appears poised to approve a mini-storage building, going against the recommendation from the town’s staff and planning board.
The board will vote on the rezoning in early October, but board members indicated at their Sept. 6 meeting that they plan to vote in favor of the 2.4-acre rezoning, provided the applicants agree to abide by certain aesthetic requirements. The building would be along North Broad Street just north of Fuquay-Varina High School.
The Holleman family first opened a storage business, H H & H Ministorage, on land farther back from the road in 1998. The business has expanded its facilities in phases since then. The owners now want to rezone several residential properties that front Broad Street, where they plan to build the final phase of the complex.
“I see the merit in continuing a project that’s been phased in over a number of years,” Commissioner Marilyn Gardner said. “I think we can only benefit with the interchange between the town staff and the petitioners, and I think it would be an opportunity to display some public art.”
Gardner’s last point was in agreement with an idea floated by Curtis Holleman, a partner with H H & H, who said he had been in talks with art groups around town about decorating the blank walls of the long, low building with residents’ art.
In July, the commissioners approved another storage facility near the entrance to one of Fuquay-Varina’s largest neighborhoods, South Lakes, despite strong opposition from residents and the town’s planning board.
Storage facilities are becoming increasingly popular among Wake County landowners wanting to take advantage of both the relatively high profit margins associated with running storage facilities and Wake County’s booming population.
Critics of this trend have questioned whether town governments should approve prime real estate for light industrial uses so close to burgeoning downtown districts. The rezoning considered in Fuquay-Varina is for property on North Broad Street, a thoroughfare into town that continues south as the Varina district’s main drag.
A storage facility proposed in downtown Raleigh by a different company also is facing controversy. It would be on South Street, just a block from Red Hat Amphitheater.
Fuquay-Varina’s town staff had some of these concerns in mind when making its recommendation to the town board.
“A mini-storage facility will not complement the vibrant, pedestrian-friendly corridor desired for downtown Varina,” Fuquay-Varina Town Manager Adam Mitchell said at the meeting. “Retail-oriented development is considered the highest and best use of the property, and the proximity to the high school generates interest for retail uses. For these reasons, I’m recommending denial.”
Wayne Mauldin, a surveyor aiding the Holleman family in the rezoning process, disputed this assessment, noting at the meeting that no retail developer had yet taken advantage of that proximity. He said he doubted there would be any desire to. In contrast to the single driveway proposed for the storage facility, he said, the high volume of traffic encouraged by retail would only worsen school traffic.
“Trying to put a bunch of driveways on (Broad Street) is only going to hurt traffic,” Mauldin said. “Our project is coming in off an existing driveway, and we have very low traffic. There would be no more driveways anywhere.”
Because town staff have been so opposed to the land being used for ministorage in the first place, they had given little guidance to the applicants in terms of aesthetics, Mitchell said. The board voted to direct town staff to consult with H H & H about the building’s appearance and delay the vote until Oct. 3. H H & H has offered to include brick facades and place a 6-foot aluminum fence between the building and the road.
“I don’t want to ugly it up around our high school,” Mayor John Byrne said. “But I think there’s a way to do it where it fits in.”
Gargan: 919-460-2604; @hgargan