Despite opposing comments from the public, the Sun Prairie Plan Commission on July 13 backed changes to the West Prairie Village general development plan (GDP) that could allow a new, three-story indoor storage facility, but delayed action on the plan for the new storage business until July 27.
BSH Companies sought the changes as well as an approval recommendation from the commission for its precise implementation plan (PIP) to allow a new Discovery Storage facility to be constructed on three undeveloped parcels near the intersection of West Main Street, North Wildwood Street, Autumn Blaze Way, and North Thompson Road.
City Planner Philip Gritzmacher Jr. outlined the three GDP amendments for West Prairie Village:
Adding “Multi-story, elevator-accessed, indoor self-storage facilities” as a permitted use within Lots 2-4 of Certified Survey Map No. 11853;
Granting a right-in, right-out access along the north side of West Main Street between North Wildwood Street and North Thompson Road in the CSM lands; and
Expanding the allowable signage percentage for undeveloped properties along the Main Street Mixed-Use Corridor.
Gritzmacher said the first amendment would enable the development of the proposed self-storage facility, and the second amendment would grant an additional access for the two parcels abutting West Main Street in between North Wildwood and North Thompson.
Previously, a secondary access was to be considered as part of a PIP submittal; however, the applicant has indicated that this access is necessary for the remaining parcel to remain viable for development. The access to West Main Street from the self-storage facility would be a right-out only access.
The third amendment would modify the allowable signage on each build façade, defining the maximum signage percentage to 10% of each façade for single-occupant buildings and 14% for multi-tenant buildings. Previously, the GDP adopted the city’s signage code for determining the maximum signage percentage and allowing increases in that percentage to be considered at time of PIP.
Dan McCoy, owner and founder of BSH Companies and the subsidiary Discovery Storage, said the new business plans to open in Fitchburg on Aug. 1.
McCoy also said there are 50 mostly new apartment communities containing 5,400 apartment units within a four-mile radius of the proposed Discovery Storage location.
Attempting to address the stereotype about storage facilities, McCoy said 70 percent of customers using Discovery Storage are women. Roughly 25% are renters, while 20% are businesses who need to store documents or records.
The three story facility will be heated and cooled, with all doors accessed from the interior of the facility and not visible to neighbors. Access to units is by Bluetooth-locked doors accessed by cellphone.
Gritzmacher wrote in his report the self-storage facility would be a three-story, climate-controlled, fully indoor building with an elevator and loading garage. The facility would have on-site property management and a retail operation during normal business hours – Monday through Saturday 8:30 am – 5:40 p.m. and Sunday from 12– 4 p.m. The retail operation would sell a variety of moving supplies. Safety and security measures have been proposed for the facility, including electronic keycard system to limit access to the facility as well as a digital video surveillance system with cameras throughout the property grounds.
McCoy also pointed out the existing West Prairie Village GDP is 17-18 years old, and much has changed in that time, including a significant difference in the way people shop, and the sudden life changes that require storage facilities. For example, seniors moving out of single family homes and into senior residential facilities need storage because they are not ready to part with items accumulated over a lifetime in a single family home.
Neighboring property owners weren’t in favor of the facility, however.
Ironically, a representative from Gebhardt Development — developers of the Colorado Commons development opposed by neighboring single family homeowners — called the proposal a “poor use of land.”
Michael Carter, representing Colorado Commons, said in comments submitted to Survey Monkey before the meeting that the storage facility proposal was, “poor use of land, based on location and adjoining property owners. These parcels should be earmarked for development that can add to the ‘experience’ of living in the West Prairie Village community. Storage is not a good use in this area.”
Five neighboring homeowners had the same opinion, including Colorado Avenue resident Joe Tadych.
“Our neighborhood is a really nice area to live in. Adding in a storage facility would not be appealing to pretty much anyone living there,” Tadych wrote in comments submitted to the city. “Some of us are already disheartened by the apartments that are going up across the street and adding in a storage facility would not be as acceptable. Our hopes as home owners was to find a nice peaceful community without all of the in-and-out traffic that both the apartments and storage facility would be bringing to the area.”
West Prairie Village developer Chad Fedler pointed out that the original intended use for the area where Colorado Commons was being constructed: Institutional, as in a school, daycare facility or medical clinic.
“I mention this because things change,” said Fedler, whose company also developed much of the Prairie Lakes retail area.
Fedler said what people want and expect also changes. “What was envisioned 20 years ago . . . has changed. And frankly it’s very fluid,” Fedler added.
Besides Prairie Lakes, Fedler also pointed out the proposed Pumpkin Patch development expected to attract 300,000-400,000 square feet of retail development, including a new Hy-Vee store, as well as the Grand on Main development with a mix of retail, commercial and office uses.
All of that retail development needs to be absorbed, Fedler said, which leaves West Prairie Village to develop other types of retail uses, such as Discovery Storage. He said he got to know McCoy and how he runs his operation throughout the nation, before they agreed to move forward.
“If they were not a quality operator,” Fedler added, “they would not be here tonight.” He said Discovery Storage meets community expectations, that he would like to see it be approved and thought it may kick off development activity along West Main Street.
But Gritzmacher recommended tabling the PIP until July 27 so staff could review possible changes in a revised Discovery Storage plan submitted to the city, especially in dealing with signage. Although BSH had the opportunity to waive sign requirements, Gritzmacher said the request was not made. Also, Gritzmacher said, the city recommended no signage on Discovery Storage façades facing residential areas.
Commissioners agreed to table the PIP until July 27, but backed approval of the GDP changes to allow the storage facility.