‘Storage war’ ends without change
Two storage businesses clear to build on Highway W

By Melanie Boyung - News Graphic Staff

Sept. 19, 2017

GRAFTON — A business’ attempt to have its competition’s permit revoked fell flat last week as an appeal hearing came down decisively against action.

The town of Grafton Zoning Board of Appeals met last Wednesday for a hearing, considering a formal petition from Bruno Hanney of Bruno’s Self Storage. Hanney, who has a self-storage business under construction at 2091 Highway W in the town, filed the petition to appeal the permit for another storage business, owned by RJ Investments, approved in July for the property at 1927 Highway W.

“We were just about to start construction, (and) I find out through the paper … the town just approved another storage facility a few hundred yards from me,” Hanney said at the hearing.

After the hearing ran for two hours as Hanney’s attorney, Rodney Carter, and Town Attorney Sara MacCarthy made their arguments, discussed evidence and spoke to several witnesses, the Zoning Board of Appeals asked several questions and then voted unanimously against sending the second storage facility back to the Plan Commission.

The petition argued the notice sent by the town for a public hearing on RJ Investments’ conditional use permit was defective, because neither Hanney nor the previous owners of his property received that notice.

“That’s not something we’re responsible for,” Mac-Carthy said.

Under the state statute for notices of public hearings, which the town of Grafton ordinance follows, a municipality is required to prepare and mail notices for all properties within 500 feet of the property for which the hearing is being held. There is no requirement that the town guarantee delivery or verify receipt of the hearing notice.

The town had a notarized affidavit of mailing for the notices to all 14 appropriate properties, which Mac-Carthy called presumptive evidence that it was done. One resident testified for the town that they received the notice; but the couple who sold Hanney the property said they did not receive it.

McCarthy said that, even if it were proven that a mistake was made, that isn’t enough to invalidate the Plan Commission’s actions. The petitioner has to show that something was done wrong “with prejudice.”

“I think it is prejudiced, you heard Mr. Hanney on the economic situation,” Carter said.

Beyond the formal argument, Hanney spoke during the hearing’s public comment about the investment he had made in his storage business. He said he had invested millions in construction, planning and economic studies for his business.

He said the studies for selecting his location and planning his business’ build-out were derailed by the RJ investments storage facility, as his plans were based on not having that competition.

Several others spoke in support of Hanney’s petition as well, all of them arguing it was unfair for the town to allow a competing business so close to Hanney’s.

“The cited basis of competition is irrelevant to the Plan Commission decision,” said Dan Lyons, a member of both the Zoning Board of Appeals and the Plan Commission.

The town code does not include any regulations or limitations on proximity between similar businesses. Several members of the appeals board commented that all the town’s protocols for notice had been followed, and they had no right to refuse or revoke a permit based on competition.

Hanney said Monday he does not intend to take further action.

Email: mboyung@conleynet.com