Quest for exception to allow storage units headed to city board|[6/7/06]

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 7, 2006

A car dealership’s desire to also offer portable storage units for sale on its lot will advance to the Board of Mayor and Aldermen after the city’s lay zoning board declined Tuesday to exempt the business from ordinances banning the practice.

The motion to approve Reliable Motors’ request for an exemption failed in a 3-1 vote, but because three members of the seven-person board were absent, protocol dictates it move to elected officials without a formal appeal.

The Rev. Casey Fisher was the lone member favoring an exemption from general C-4 zoning regulations for Reliable, which sells and finances used vehicles at 1661 N. Frontage Road. Members Jack Burrell, Tim Fagerburg and Mark Corum voted against the request.

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Reliable’s owners, Bill Garmon and Darin Lambert, contended the portable buildings fit the city’s plan for &#8220general use” under the C-4 zoning because they are not &#8220dangerous, offensive or detrimental,” and other businesses with the same designation – specifically, The Home Depot, across Interstate 20 on South Frontage Road – display similar structures outside their stores with no such exception.

City zoning officials said the key difference is that The Home Depot’s primary business is selling from goods inside its store, whereas Reliable’s business is in cars already outside on its lot.

The manufacturer of the units, James Tharpe of Cook’s Portable Buildings in Grenada, said they are &#8220high quality,” but Fagerburg cited &#8220visual aesthetics” as the reason for the ordinance.

No other business in the city has asked for an exemption to the ordinance, which usually allows such units only in industrial zones, Zoning Administrator Dalton McCarty has said. Watkins Nursery recently had a permit renewed to display portable carports for sale outside its building on South Frontage Road, he said, but there is no precedent for the zoning board’s decision on storage units.

The city’s zoning ordinance for C-4 commercial zones says &#8220All storage and display shall occur inside a fully enclosed building and/or door behind the front building line surrounded by an opaque screen at least 8 feet in height. Vehicular display areas are excepted.”

In other business, the board: