The Mebane City Council turned down a proposed U-Haul business on the east side of town at Monday night’s monthly meeting, as the elected board cited a variety of concerns including harmony with the surrounding area, as well as the feasibility of such a business in that particular location.
The proposal was made by Robert and Carmen Giggey for their property and building at 7707 U.S. Highway 70. The property is located just behind the ABC Store on Bob White Way, next to King Tire of Mebane and to the immediate west of the Mebane Auction Antique Gallery and Huey’s Restaurant and Oyster Bar. The Giggeys have owned the property for many years. Historically it was used for a light manufacturing purpose.
The Giggeys sought repurposing the zoning from its current B-3 (Neighborhood Business District) to M-1 (CD) (Heavy Manufacturing Conditional Zoning District) to allow primarily for “truck and utility trailer rental and leasing.” A U-Haul Business had actually started up at the location following a 7-1 approval by the Mebane Planning Board last year, but the City of Mebane formally sent a cease-and-desist letter, indicating that the City Council still had to approve the proper zoning before the business could actively assist customers.
The 0.43 acre property is currently outside the city limits in Mebane’s extraterritorial jurisdiction (ETJ), but is within the city’s G1 mixed use/primary growth downtown area, which calls for a mixture of uses in that area. The proposed business had no conflicts with the city’s conservation area, and there are no watershed considerations, since this particular property drains to the north, away from Highway 70, instead of to the south.
“The property at present has been empty. My husband has been too sick. We had a machine fabrication business that we ran there. He became too ill with his heart to continue the business. We tried to keep it alive. With emergencies, we had to leave. We locked the building,” Carmen Giggey explained to the City Council. “It (the building) has created a safety problem for the people behind (the property). There has been criminal activity.”
In defending her application for the rezoning, Giggey reminded the City Council that in the ABC Store robbery last July, some of the suspects made their way to their empty building to make secondary plans. Her suggestion was that if there was an active business at the location, as opposed to a seemingly abandoned building, it would have been much less attractive for the criminals as a place to regroup.
“Between the cameras on the buildings and witnesses, these armed criminals actually went behind our building, changed a mask or whatever they did, and just walked into the backyards of the residential areas very close to us,” she told the elected officials. “With our building being empty, it was very easy for the people who robbed the liquor store or the convenient stores (to trespass on our property).”
Along with its location surrounded by a variety of Mebane businesses, the Giggey’s property is to the immediate south of the Ashbury Crossing active adult community. Bob White Way comes to an end at a cul-de-sac, and numerous residential townhomes are within a few feet of the Giggey’s building’s footprint, separated by a wooden fence.
“We have one business - that is this U-Haul business - that is ready to handle the requirements that is necessary to do business there,” she continued. “We are here to ask for the Commissioners’ blessing. We are here to see what you want us to do, and what conditions you wish (to see for approval).”
During the public hearing, Barbara Phillips, an Ashbury Crossing resident who lives directly behind the Giggey property, gave a passionate speech explaining her reasons why she disapproved of the proposed business.
“I object to the noise. I object to the lighting. I object to whoever or whatever coming any time of day to drop off a truck,” Phillips said. “That 0.43 acres is not adequate for a trucking rental. They have no road frontage on this property. Two men have told me they have offered to buy that property, who have property along there. They (the Giggeys) refuse to sell it.”
“Ashbury Crossing is a development for senior citizens. We do not need the hassle of rental trucks coming in any day or night. My bedroom, my dining room, and my patio are on the back of my property. Do I want to back up to a truck rental? I do not,” Phillips continued. “They have been doing business here (as a U-Haul company) before this zoning was approved. Does that tell you they are going to abide by rules and regulations after it is approved? No way.”
“Right now, they are storing trucks at the auction place, and they are having their servicing done at King Tire. What happens when that falls through? This is a Senior Citizen’s development. We do not need these trucks behind us,” Phillips said as she concluded her passionate plea. “I object to the lights they want to put up.”
The fencing separating the Giggey’s building from the nearby townhomes within the Ashbury Crossing community was a significant talking point throughout the discussion as to whether or not the U-Haul business use should or should not be approved.
“The developer of the property behind us does not have a 50-foot barrier,” Mrs. Giggey told the City Council. “You only have a few feet, and you’re in the backyard of someone’s townhome. We need to continue that fence for safety reasons. We need to keep the building in good condition, to have a business that is beneficial for everyone - my husband and I, but also the vision of Mebane. There have been ordinances put in place for community safety. Good things just make sense. And we want that. We’ve had many people who want to do business (at our location), but it did not fit the environment. An indoor batting cage would not be something you’d want right next to you.”
“We know that the fence - when it was done, they had construction dirt that they just piled up. So it’s sloped out, and gone in different areas. I would not know what to plant there,” Mrs. Giggey added. “The fencing, where it was stopped, we would actually have to go beyond our property line in order to meet up with it by a few inches. We thought we’d have to put a board or something to fill the gap. We’d like to fill it across, the way it should have been done to begin with for the people on the other side. We’d like to go across and do that. I don’t know how to fix the areas on the bottom other than landscaping.”
“We want to do what we can there to make it safe. There’s nothing bad my husband and I would wish for the people who live around there. We don’t want a lot of noise. We don’t want a biker bar. Anything that would make a problem for the people around,” Giggey added. “The fence did have a berm wall that sloped off to the back of the property. Our aim is to continue the berm wall. Some of the boards are real bowed-out at the bottom.”
City Council member Sean Ewing, who ultimately voted against the proposed U-Haul business at this particular site, was invited by Barbara Phillips to visit the location and see for himself her specific concerns regarding the fencing separating the properties.
“I put in the two sections of fencing to shield my house from Highway 70. There’s no way they can extend it because they do not own that property. I own that property,” Phillips said. “The back of their building is almost at the property line. I don’t know how they think they’re going to put a fence in there. They do not own that property.”
“I have every confidence we can fix that fence. I think we can take care of the fence. My concern is with the U-Hauls coming out of there,” City Council member Everette Greene said in response to Giggey and Phillips. “When the trucks are coming back, you’re going to have a problem there. They’re going to be parking all over the place. How are we going to prevent that? That’s not a big road.”
Although the Giggeys indicated that the road in question was wide enough to fit three box trucks, it wasn’t enough to satisfy the City Council’s concerns.
Greene seemed to agree with Philips’ assessment that the location wasn’t ideally suited for the type of business the Giggeys proposed.
“I’m concerned that the area is too small for rental trucks. I don’t think it can do it without problems with King Tire,” Greene said prior to making a motion denying the request. “I’m not excited about this use. I don’t think it would be in harmony with the neighborhood.”
Patty Philipps seconded Greene’s motion, and the City Council unanimously voted 5-0 to reject the proposed business use.