U-Haul holds public forum
On Wednesday, May 9, U-Haul representatives detailed some of the company’s plans and fielded questions from citizens, several of whom live near the company’s planned facilities in the Lexington Road Plaza.
The meeting took place in a conference room inside the Versailles Brewing Company (VBC) and attracted about two dozen people. U-Haul regional president Chris Nester, a 34-year company veteran, was joined by attorney Whitney Dunlap, who’s representing the company as it moves to Versailles. (Dunlap is a cousin of Sun publisher Whitney Chandler.)
Nester said U-Haul will offer people an opportunity to gain a “psychic reward” by moving themselves and, in the process, fill the empty Kroger and Kmart buildings.
Dunlap said plans for the Kmart building, vacant since late January, include two tenants – one of them a major farm and home supply company that has signed a letter of intent with U-Haul. The company will use the old Kroger building as the rental site for their trucks, trailers and ‘U-Pods,’ a retail store for items needed for moving and storage, a climate-controlled storage area and a small bay to install hitches and lighting.
Other tenants in the shopping center will be unaffected by the company’s plans, Dunlap said.
Among the questioners were Dee Gay, who owns a climate-controlled rental storage facility and wondered whether U-Haul’s plans fit the zoning designation of the shopping center.
“Obviously, the businesses you cited … across the side, VBC – they’re zoned for B-4. Storage is zoned for I-2. Obviously, you’re going to go for an exception with Planning and Zoning of some sort. So I’m just curious, why didn’t you look at the Ruggles building, or other buildings in town that are a similar space and are zoned appropriately?” Gay asked.
Nester said the company’s major reason for being in business was to rent trucks and trailers.
“In order to serve a community, people need to know where they can get a truck or a trailer. Most of my employees are informed very quickly up front that they are like ambassadors to the community, and they need to act that way … and be able to direct the newcomers who are coming to town where the other (storage rental) locations are. In order to be a truck and trailer company, we need to be visible. …” Nester said.
Riva Walsh said she lived two blocks away and doesn’t want the company’s trucks and trailers parked out there.
“Like I see those two little things you have out there right now – I don’t like it,” Walsh said.
Nester said the company’s vehicles would be lined up neatly in the parking lot and well-maintained.
David Arnold, who also said he lived two blocks away, asked how many vehicles the company would keep there.
“ … Every U-Haul facility I’ve ever seen looked like Gomer Pyle parked everything. They’ve looked trashy, ill-kept and disorganized …” Arnold said.
Nester said he couldn’t say how many vehicles will be parked there at a given time, because they can be moved to other U-Haul rental sites and such decisions are left to the company dealer.
(After the meeting, Arnold changed his views on the company’s plans. His letter to the editor is on page two.)
Deborah Knittel, a resident of Stonegate subdivision, said she was worried about the visual impact U-Haul will have on the city’s east entrance. She said she didn’t mind the company going to Versailles, but wished they’d picked a different location.
“The goal is to have enough vehicles to be able to advertise what’s there and what the possibilities are, and only enough vehicles, because the rest are out …” Dunlap said.
Other attendees expressed support for the company’s plans. After the meeting, Iva Jane Currens and her husband Charles, who live two streets away, said they were happy that two empty buildings would no longer be vacant and that the company would contribute tax dollars.
Tuesday morning, Dunlap told the Sun that he believed an early June appearance before the Board of Adjustments to seek a “similar use determination” might be the only approval the company needs to move forward.