Storage wars
Town of Grafton business owner appeals town approval of rival business

By Melanie Boyung - News Graphic Staff

August 15, 2017

GRAFTON — The permit for a new self-storage business in the town of Grafton is being challenged by a competitor.

Bruno Hanney, whose Bruno’s Self Storage is under construction at 2091 Highway W, has filed a formal petition to appeal the conditional use permit granted to RJ Investments. The Plan Commission in July gave owner Laura Logan approval to construct and operate Meadowlark Storage, a self-storage business at 1927 Highway W. The two parcels are separated only by the Pace Distribution building. A public hearing has been scheduled for Sept. 13 before the town’s Zoning Board of Appeals.

“We were actually shocked that the town approved another storage facility just a few hundred yards away,” Hanney said earlier this month.

Hanney’s petition to appeal the Plan Commission’s approval deals with the public hearing process for RJ Investments. Hanney argues that the town did not adequately notify property owners in the vicinity of the proposed Meadowlark Storage.

He said that some property owners did not receive the notice at all, as required by law, and those who did were not given enough information to understand. A public hearing for Meadowlark Storage was held at the June Plan Commission meeting; Hanney said that no one spoke during that hearing.

Following the public hearing, commissioners discussed the plan, but tabled a decision until the July meeting, saying they needed additional details on the site plan; they approved it at that next meeting.

Town Clerk Amanda Schaefer said this week that the town has record of the notice being mailed to the owners of all the properties within 500 feet of the property being considered, as is required. She said the town followed the exact same noticing process for Meadowlark Storage as is always followed for public hearings.

Hanney himself did not receive the notice; his purchase of the property was recent, however, and town records show it was sent to the previous property owner.

Hanney said that owner, who still holds a neighboring property, did not receive notice.

“Not only were we not notified, I think it’s unethical for the town to plop another storage facility right next to me,” Hanney said.

The town code does not include any ordinance limiting business proximity or density; because there is no ordinance controlling how close together businesses of the same kind are built, town staff said the Plan Commission cannot reject a permit application for that reason.

Hanney’s petition claims that the notice sent to neighboring properties was technically defective, because “interested parties in the vicinity of the property had no opportunity to properly respond to the application or attend the public hearing due to the fact that they may have been misled by the inaccuracy of the public hearing/ meeting notice.”

Hanney said at least one property owner near his business received the notice and thought it was about Hanney’s business, not another storage business being proposed, and disregarded it. The notice itself included a letter to property owners stating there would be a hearing about a property in their vicinity, their right to comment and how comments could be made, as well as a copy of the agenda for that hearing. The agenda stated the name of the applicant, RJ Investments, the correct address for the property and that the petition was for rezoning and conditional use permit for a rental storage business.

The letter also included a link to the town website, where residents could view the Plan Commission packet, including RJ Investments’ permit application and details on the plan for the property.

Hanney received his approvals for a 1,200 unit self-storage business last winter, and intends to open the business this fall. He is renovating an existing building.