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ZONING BOARD DENIES PERMIT FOR SELF-STORAGE FACILITY

Attorney John Noor questions a witness during the Zoning Board of Adjustment hearing on a request to allow a 1,000-unit self-storage facility in Crab Creek. Attorney John Noor questions a witness during the Zoning Board of Adjustment hearing on a request to allow a 1,000-unit self-storage facility in Crab Creek.

The Henderson County Zoning Board of Adjustment on Wednesday night denied a zoning permit for a 1,000-unit self-storage facility on Crab Creek Road, ending the county board's role in a contentious process that consumed more than 11 hours over three different meetings.

Applicant Matthew Cooke sought a special-use permit to allow the development, which is a permitted use under certain conditions in an R2R residential zone, the current land-use designation for the land. The site plan Cooke filed with the county showed the buildout in four phases of 39,000, 51,000, 24,000 and 10,000 square feet — covering roughly three of the 9½ acres— plus an office and a gated entrance on Crab Creek Road across from Curtis Road east of Camp Blue Star and west of Evans Road.

As the final night of the case came to a close, 10 neighbors spoke against the development. In an unusual circumstance, one of them was a sitting county commissioner, Michael Edney, whose family has owned land near the proposed site for decades. The applicant's attorney, Brian Gulden, objected to public comment from an elected official "who appoints this board" but the board allowed Edney to speak as a "private citizen."

"I'm here because of my family and my personal interest in it," Edney said. "It has nothing to do with the County Commission or as an attorney." The project "is not in harmony with the surrounding area. The type of use is totally inconsistent with anything out there. It's really not commercial because the ordinance does not allow commercial. It's really not industrial ... It definitely is not consistent with anything else on that road. The size of the units is totally inconsistent with anything else out there. A thousand units of anything in that neighborhood ... is inconsistent with any development, residential or otherwise, anywhere on Crab Creek Road."

Cooke said after the board rejected his application that he did not know whether he would appeal. Gulden said he would advise his client to fight on. The attorney said he would contest the decision because the board chair had allowed "speculation based on generalized fear of what could happen — no facts or evidence to really show anything about it."  An appeal of a Zoning Board of Adjustment decision goes to the county civil Superior Court, not the Board of Commissioners.

Kicking off round 3 of the hearing at 4 o'clock Wednesday, John Noor, the attorney for neighboring property owner Randy Doss, called appraiser Raymond Murphy as an expert on residential real estate value. Noor asked Murphy what impact the storage facility would have on the value of Doss's property, given "the pastoral and mountain view that is currently in place."

"I concluded that the self-storage facillity would cause a reduction in property value for Mr. Doss," he said. "We came to the conclusion that the market does in fact pay a premium for a view over and above one that doesn't." If a commercial development goes up in the rural community "people might not want to live in the immediate neighborhood even though their view may have nothing to do with the self-storage facility," Murphy said.

What impact, Noor asked, would the self-storage development have on the value of neighboring properties?

"I think it will reduce the value of quite a few properties that surround it," Murphy said, citing the "stigma" of an active commercial use on the 9½-acre site and loss of viewscape.

Murphy testified that he has lived on Crab Creek Road for five years and opposes the self-storage facility. On cross examination, Gulden asked the appraiser how he could fairly offer his opinion when he lives in the area and admits to being against the development. Murphy responded that he was able to set aside his personal opinion and testify factually about the research on the impact a busy commercial development may have on residential values.

Donald Read testified on the issue of whether a view has value even if it is not protected by a legal instrument that would prevent obstruction. He studied sales of a couple hundred homes and residential lots with views and without views and found a large difference in the two.

"There's a real premium paid for a view," he said. "The more view, the higher the value and people pay for it. ... People pay for pretty." The purchase price of a  home 255 feet from a ministorage facility on Naples Road was "the lowest in Henderson County" compared to others of similar size and floor plan, Read said. "It does damage to the properties that are immediately next door." Gulden noted that the Naples Road home was close to I-26 and, on cross examination, Read acknowledged that noise from the freeway could have had impacted the sale as well.

Board members said that for a number of reasons the application jeopardized health, safety and welfare of the area. could harm the environment and was not in harmony with the surrounding residential and farming community.

Tony Engel said he's driven Crab Creek Road for 40 years. "The way the road dips up and down, more traffic on there would only cause more difficulty," he said.

Bill Fishburne said he worried about adding traffic to a road used by Camp Blue Star buses carrying youngsters.

"A thousand units having traffic going back and forth and camp buses going up and down is kind of scary and I think on that point it fails on public safety or welfare,"  he said. A real esta\te agent, Fishburne added: "I do believe that the value of real estate in that area would be negatively damaged in my opinion based on my experience and what I've heard here."

Three other board members, Jim Hysong, Louise St. Romain and board chair Ron Kauffman, all said they were not convinced that the stormwater treatment system engineers had designed for the development would sufficiently protect the surrounding property and Mud Creek.

"This facility," Kauffman said, "is in harmony with nothing else out there at this time."