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Santa Maria Sun / News

The following article was posted on September 9th, 2020, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 21, Issue 28 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [] - Volume 21, Issue 28

Santa Maria allows U-Haul to add 600 mini-storage units to its property

By Malea Martin

Santa Maria’s miniature storage options are about to increase.

The City Council voted on Sept. 1 to deny an appeal brought before them by Stephen Wagner, a concerned community member who opposed the city Planning Commission’s June 17 decision to approve permits for the U-Haul Mini Storage and Office project. 

The Planning Commission’s decision in favor of the project narrowly passed after multiple hearings. The first hearing on May 6 ended with commissioners continuing the item with direction for staff to return with findings to deny the project. The item was continued again on May 20, this time with the commission asking for findings to both approve and deny the project. 

On June 17, the commission approved conditional use and planned development permits for the U-Haul project at the former Kmart at 2875 Santa Maria Way. The company plans to remodel the existing building to accommodate more than 600 mini-storage units and a self-storage space. The vote was split 3-2. 

About two weeks later, Wagner filed his appeal of the project. As a resident in a nearby neighborhood, Wagner’s main concerns included U-Haul moving trucks being visible from Santa Maria Way, the project not having enough landscaping to block sight of the operations, incorrect use of commercially zoned land, and a lack of communication to nearby residents like himself. 

But the city didn’t agree with Wagner’s concerns. Community Development Director Chuen Ng recommended that the council adopt a resolution to deny Wagner’s appeal and affirm the planning commission’s decision to allow U-Haul to build out its mini-storage remodel.

“There were some concerns that the mini storage use is not a typical, commercial use, and it may be more akin to warehousing or light industrial use,” Ng said during the Sept. 1 meeting. “But as a result of the discussions and deliberation, staff believes that the mini storage use is not any more impactful than other commercial uses in terms of noise or traffic, and that there are other C-2 zoned sites that have accommodated a mini-storage use in the past.”

A U-Haul representative also emphasized that the company does have a small retail component that would continue to generate tax revenue for the city.

But Wagner—and the 240 neighbors who he said signed his petition—also took issue with the site being an “eyesore” for those passing by on Santa Maria Way.

“I think we’re seeing an inadequate level of landscaping added to the site,” he said. 

Tom Martinez, the architect for the U-Haul project, said that the site’s landscaping meets city standards.

“We’ve added additional planters at both ends for a total of 15.8 percent of the site in landscaping,” Martinez said. “The number of trees, location of the trees, was all determined by the city’s parks and rec department.”

Wagner then asked that, if the City Council moved to deny his appeal, that they at least consider requiring U-Haul to park its moving trucks on the other side of the lot, which borders Highway 135, rather than on the Santa Maria Way side. 

Councilmember Gloria Soto asked Ng whether this would be possible. Ng explained that there are certain parts of the parking lot that are approved for truck storage, and that the company’s trucks are currently parked on both sides of the lot, though more are toward the Santa Maria Way side. 

Councilmember Mike Cordero questioned whether the council had the right to tell businesses how to use their parking lots.  

After expressing that she believes U-Haul’s changes to the property are an overall improvement, Councilmember Etta Waterfield motioned to deny the appeal and affirm the Planning Commission’s decision to allow U-Haul to move forward with its mini-storage project. The council approved the motion 4-0, with Mayor Alice Patino absent from the meeting. 

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