U-Haul packs up and moves on
Company withdraws application to develop in Plymouth
Moving equipment and storage rental company U-Haul and Plymouth City Council found themselves at odds over an application to set up shop at an old self-storage facility at 1225 Highway 169 during a regular council meeting Jan. 8.
Principal Planner and Development Manager for U-Haul and AMERCO Real Estate David Pollock said the company makes it a regular practice to utilize vacant buildings for new operation locations as opposed to constructing sites specific to U-Haul’s business model.
In searching for a lot to open a U-Haul vehicle rental and storage location, the company found the Plymouth location usable, but the city was not convinced.
AMERCO Real Estate applied for purchase and use of the lot at a Planning Commission meeting Dec. 5, 2012.
Problems arose as U-Haul requested to park a number of their vehicles on the east side of the building, facing Highway 169. City staff and the commission took issue citing the site’s current zoning and the aesthetic impact of a large number of trucks visible from the highway.
“We do not find that the application would be in harmony with the purpose and intent of the zoning ordinance and comprehensive plan,” said Senior Planner Marie Darling in December.
The Planning Commission resolved to approve the application and allow for U-Haul to park its trucks on the property if the company submitted a plan to soften the impact with landscaping techniques.
When the application came to the City Council on Jan. 8, council members continued to object the visual impact on the city’s aesthetic standards.
As the zoning stands, the ordinance allows for three trucks to be parked in front of the business. U-Haul had hoped to be able to park an unlimited number to advertise and showcase its product.
“We at U-Haul are very exited about coming to Plymouth and expanding our business,” Pollock told the council. “With us coming here, we will be sustainable. But the screening ordinance just doesn’t work for us.”
The council initially moved to amend the application to allow seven trucks instead of three. Pollock remained adamant that between 30 and 40 vehicles, including parked cars, would fit the U-Haul business model, and the seven would restrict viability.
“I certainly want this business to move forward, and I’m sorry they can’t based on the parking requirements,” said Councilmember Bob Stein. “But I think allowing unlimited parking in front of this building is a detriment to any future development in the area. We don’t allow any parking like this any place else in the city.”
The council then moved to allow for 10 vehicles.
“I could offer 25-30 [vehicles],” Pollock said. “We could compromise and we could be successful there.”
The council voted down the proposal.
“I think it’s representative of our city,” said Mayor Kelli Slavik. “The council supports new businesses and successful businesses, and we’re looking to find a solution here. I don’t think a parking lot of vehicles at that location works.”
After other numbers were suggested and denied, Pollock decided to withdraw the application.
“We want to be a part of the community, we want to be a corporate citizen,” Pollock said. “Part of that is we hope we can team up and work together. We don’t like going to a city council and not having anybody want us there. Bottom line, 10 [parking spots] is not going to work for us. It would probably make it easier for us to just withdraw our application, and move forward to another development. And I’m sorry.”
After the application was withdrawn, some members of the council expressed disappointment in the standstill that led to a potential business packing up and moving on.
“I’m disappointed,” said Councilmember Judy Johnson. “There’s give and take. We have an opportunity here, it’s not perfect, but I think it’s a good thing. So I’m disappointed.”
“I’m disappointed, too,” said Slavik. “We didn’t reach a compromise, and I guess I’ve never had a developer stand up, withdraw and walk away. I think we have a great reputation with our builders and developers to make things work. We appreciate [U-Haul] for making the attempt.”
The council made it a point the recognize that Plymouth does not disagree with U-Haul’s business model and expectations, but that those expectations just didn’t fit with the particular location of the proposed site. It was reiterated that if U-Haul were allowed to utilize the plot as asked, it could hinder future developments in the area.
“No animosity on my part,” said Councilmember Jim Willis. “I respect the fact that they said it doesn’t work for them. From my perspective, I just can’t give [U-Haul] what [they] want.”
Contact Brian Rosemeyer at email@example.com