About a dozen people spoke at Tuesday’s town board meeting to express their displeasure with a storage facility proposed for land near the entrance to South Lakes neighborhood.
But the board voted unanimously to approve the rezoning petition that will allow the facility to be built. Commissioner Jason Wunsch didn’t vote, recusing himself because he has family members who live in South Lakes.
That came as a blow to some South Lakes residents, who said they had hoped the land at the southeast corner of Jones Lake Road and N.C. 55 would be used for family friendly retail. Of the 6.8 acres approved for rezoning, about 1.5 acres closest to the intersection was zoned for commercial retail uses, but the remaining 5.3 acres is now zoned to exclusively permit the storage facility that applicant John Auton intends to build.
Auton is president of Fuquay-Varina-based Imperial Design Builders, but the rezoning application was submitted on behalf of another company, also owned by Auton, called Timing Is Everything LLC.
John Wilbon, a South Lakes resident whose home borders the land to be used for the storage facility, spoke in favor of the rezoning. He said he was satisfied with changes made to the proposal since it was first shown to residents.
South Lakes, which bills itself as Fuquay-Varina’s “first master-planned community,” was begun in 2005 by Preston Development Company but stalled as a result of the 2008 recession. It currently comprises 338 homes but will top 700 when completed. Southlake Investors LLC currently owns the land rezoned Tuesday evening.
In discussion before the vote, several board members noted that the applicant had promised to do everything it could to shield nearby homes from the planned facility. Town Manager Adam Mitchell said that includes the promise of tasteful facades, anti-light pollution measures and 30-foot evergreen buffers.
“As I have learned more, I believe what they have proposed is reasonable,” Commissioner Charlie Adcock said. “My philosophy ultimately is to let the market dictate what needs to be a built. I don’t see that as the role of the board to determine what’s needed, whether it be mini-storage or anything else.”
But those concessions didn’t satisfy the residents, who said they were more concerned with the idea of a storage facility next to their neighborhood rather than how well it could be hidden.
“I didn’t want something we had to hide in a mixed-use community,” said South Lakes resident Daniel Klausner. “I wanted something we could go to with our kids after a day at work and hang out at with our friends – not something pretending to be a retail building or hidden by landscaping.”
An online petition against the rezoning had 533 signatures by the time of the vote, although it was not submitted to the town as an official protest petition because those who signed the petition did not provide addresses to prove they lived in the neighborhood. Some names appear on the petition as many as four times.
“We spend a lot of money in this town trying to make it beautiful, and a mini-storage is not going to make it more beautiful,” said Katherine Van Allen, a South Lakes resident. “I can’t fathom why they want to put a business in the neighborhood that’s not wanted. That might sound a little shallow, but aesthetics matter.”
Resident Cassandra Cranston questioned the need for another storage facility in Fuquay-Varina when the four already in town, according to phone calls she’d made, were not near capacity.
Mitchell said Wednesday that storage facilities are both attractive to developers for their relatively quick return on investment and in high demand due to the multitude of new residents moving to the area.
“It was mentioned that there are X number of mini-storages that aren’t full, but that’s not we’ve found in our research,” Mitchell said. “We’re finding that the storage units in our town are almost always full.”
New Saturday home for market
The board also approved a request from the Fuquay-Varina Growers Market to move its Saturday market to a downtown parking lot from 7 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
An 11-space portion of the lot, at the corner of Main and Raleigh streets, would be reserved for the Growers Market, as long as they provide signs directing visitors to alternative parking. The first market held at the new location at 101 Raleigh St., will take place July 16 from 8 a.m. to noon.
The market’s two Wednesday locations will remain unchanged. Those are at the Chamber of Commerce at 121 N. Main St. from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and at the Hook and Cleaver’s 409 Broad St. location from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Gargan: 919-460-2604; @hgargan