No decision was made at last night’s Zoning Board of Adjustment public hearing about the proposed self-storage unit project at 181 Middle Road next to the fire station. The board will reconvene on October 4th at 7PM at the Town House to hold a vote.
The board chairman, Mark Howard, began the public hearing by explaining that the petitioner — Paul Zimmerman, through his representative — was coming before the board asking for a special exception, not a variance. A variance is required when the current zoning specifically prohibits a proposed use for the property. However, Article 3.6.F13 of the Tuftonboro Zoning Ordinance allows the construction of “Storage Buildings” in medium density residential areas by special exception.
Therefore, the use is permitted if the property owner can demonstrate that the use will meet five specific criteria. Howard confirmed to me that if the use does meet the criteria, then the the law requires that the board must grant a special exception.
The criteria are:
Special Exceptions shall meet the following standards:
1. Standards provided by this Ordinance for the particular use permitted by special exception.
2. No hazard to the public or adjacent property on account of potential fire, explosion or release of toxic materials.
3. No detriment to property values in the vicinity or change in the essential characteristics of a residential neighborhood on account of the location or scale of Buildings and other structures, parking area, Access ways, odor, smoke, gas, dust, or other pollutant, noise, glare, heat, vibration, or unsightly outdoor storage of equipment, vehicles or other materials.
4. No creation of a traffic safety hazard or a substantial increase in the level of traffic congestion in the vicinity.
5. No excessive demand on municipal services, including, but not limited to, water, sewer, waste disposal, police and fire protection, and schools.
6. No significant increase of storm water runoff onto adjacent property or streets.
The board was short a member last night, and without an alternate, there were only four members present. Zimmerman therefore had the right to ask for a continuance, since he would require three yes votes to obtain a special exception. His representative opted to go forward with the presentation of the construction plans. However, the board voted at the end of the hearing to issue a continuance and reconvene on October 4th at 7PM in the Town House, in order to give Zimmerman’s team time to respond to several questions and concerns that were raised both by the board and members of the public.
Zimmerman constructed the self-storage units at Clark Plaza in Wolfeboro last year, and the proposed building at 181 Middle Road would closely resemble the Wolfeboro design.
Bob Theve, a member of the board, asked what would happen if someone renting a storage unit put hazardous material in their unit. He was specifically concerned that the town be indemnified in the event.
Zimmerman’s representative, an engineer with Allen & Major Associates, Inc, stated that there would be no office on site and no security gate. The rental agreement would prohibit storage of hazardous material. Several residents were concerned that there would be no enforcement of that clause, however. They pointed out that if there’s no one on site to manage the facility, and if renters can come at any time, including the middle of the night, then there would be no way to prevent someone from storing liquid propane canisters, as one resident suggested as an example. LP canisters are very common and are used for gas grills, for instance.
Faye Friedrich, of Middle Road, stated that she is a supporter of private property rights, which is why she supports the new gravel pit across from her own property. However, she read from the town’s Master Plan, put out by the Planned Board, which calls for maintaining the character of the town. It was Friedrich’s opinion that self-storage units, especially corrugated steel structures as proposed, would change the nature of the neighborhood significantly. “Do we want to be Route 16 in Ossipee?” She asked. Adding, “No offense to Ossipee.”
Keith Rogers, whose property is directly across Middle Road from the proposed project, stated his concerns in reference to criteria #2 in the above list that there would be “no control of what goes in and what comes out.” He also contended that Zimmerman would have to salt the driveway and surrounding areas in the winter to maintain a safe environment for the people coming and going, and that the salt would run off the property, which has a steep incline, across the road, and onto his property and into his and his neighbor’s well (see criteria #6 above). Zimmerman is proposing to use porous asphalt on the driveway, and Rogers stated he is experienced with that pacing material and that if you use sand on it then it will clog very quickly and no longer be porous, thus you must use salt. Rogers was also concerned about lighting, saying that the light from the fire station was already a nuisance.
Resident Sarah Matlock requested an artist’s rendition of the proposed buildings from the point of view of the street. Rogers was also concerned that the building, sitting on a hill, would be in plain view.
Zimmerman’s representative stated the belief of the development team that the project would not negatively affect property values (criteria #3 above) because the area is already a mixed use, with the fire station next door. The abutting property owners in attendance strongly disagreed. I gave my opinion that a self-storage facility would severely negatively affect property values, and shared with the board that my opinion was based on my experience as a residential real estate agent in New York City for nearly eight years.
A storage facility of the proposed size (more than 100 individual units) would be expected to receive on average 27 visits per week day by unit renters, or 54 “trips” to and from the site. Zimmerman’s representative stated this was low-traffic (see criteria #4, above).