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Planning Commission denies U-Haul special exception

Company wants to renovate space into storage center

Marietta Planning Commission Chairman Jeff Paugstat explains the parameters of purview for the appointed commission to member Jeff Campbell on Wednesday before the body voted to deny a special exception for U-Haul at the former K-Mart building on Pike Street. (Photo by Janelle Patterson)

The Marietta Planning Commission voted for the second time in little more than a year to deny U-Haul’s application for a special exception to permitted commercial uses at the former K-Mart building on Pike Street.

Safety-Service Director Steve Wetz was the only vote in favor Wednesday, with Mayor Josh Schlicher, Chairman Jeff Paugstat and Member Jeff Campbell voting against and Member Jeff Adkins absent.

“We’re being asked to give away something we don’t own,” voiced Paugstat, when cautioning the commission against involvement in civil disputes over easements and guiding decisionmaking based solely on an exception to permitted uses within a C-3 (commercial) zone.

Wednesday was the third time representatives of U-Haul, the Microtel and Hampton Inn, Bob Evans and McDonald’s of Marietta voiced counter-arguments for and against the storage company’s hope to renovate the former retail space into a storage center with self-moving trucks and standalone storage boxes displayed in the parking lot.

The parties last appeared before the commission in November when David Ruff, president of U-Haul Company of SE Ohio, returned to the commission to plead a second application for special exception to city zoning codes for permitted use within a C-3 zone.

Wednesday he alleged that he was unable to appeal the Nov. 6, 2019, denial after describing a delay in receipt of a letter this year outside of the appeals window.

The same selling points were lauded by Ruff of indoor, climate-controlled storage offering safety even in inclement weather to patrons.

Likewise, the same counterarguments were posed including loss of revenue to the hotels and therefore city bed tax dollars, potential loss of franchise deals and purchase for the hotels and fear of inexperienced drivers towing U-Haul equipment through “the worst intersection in the county” at Pike, Acme and Jefferson streets.

One new face to the arguments was a commercial realtor lobbying for a different C-6 zoned location on Pike Street, but that offer was not under the purview of the commission’s decision Wednesday, neither are — questions/violations of easements.

“It’s still spot zoning,” argued Steve Keiser, chief operating officer of Christy and Associates, pointing, like business developer Bob Kirkbride, to the permitted activity of storage and truck rental within a C-6 zone rather than a more restrictive C-3 zone.

Keiser noted C-3 is designed for retail, restaurants and hospitality, which the box store K-Mart, which closed in February, legally fell within the zoning definition.

The K-Mart building was purchased last year by Ruff with the intent to establish the chain of storage and do-it-yourself moving retail.

Ruff said in his opening arguments Wednesday that there is no plan to resell the building which remains vacant.

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