Sometimes first impressions are very important. For cities and towns, the entrance to their city is important because the city fathers want the city to make a good impression on businesses that are considering locating there and for families who are thinking about moving into the community. So, it’s important that the gateway to the city is appealing and well kept.
Those feelings are part of the concern that the Columbia Falls, Montana, city and county planning board have about the proposal to build a self storage facility at the east entrance to the city.
Ted Nichols wants to build a storage facility and has requested zoning changes so he can build one. Nichols bought the property in 1994. Because of the noise from the nearby busy highway, he hasn’t been able to develop it for residences. That’s why he wants to build a storage facility instead.
Nichols is requesting a conditional-use permit to build a shop with an office, 40-50 mini storage units, and a building where people could store their boats. However, Mike Shepard, planning board member and city councilor, is concerned about the aesthetics of having a self storage business at the entrance of the city.
Nichols addressed the planning board’s concerns about aesthetics of a mini storage facility. He said he wouldn’t build a fence around the units because the fence would be unsightly. He also gave the planning board photos of a mini storage in Missoula to show that a storage facility could be very visually appealing.
Several other property owners in the area have requested zoning changes because of the commercial development that they want to do in the area. Several of those properties are in two zoning districts – as is the property where Nichols wants to build.
Some people on the planning board feel that the city should consider individual requests as they come in. However, the city manager doesn’t want to “piecemeal” one property at a time because that could result in unintended consequences later on.
The city planning consultant recommended that the city create a master plan for the entrance corridor. By having a city plan in place, it would be easier for the city to decide what types of businesses could be allowed in that specific area.
The board amended one of the conditions Nichols is requesting for his storage facility. They approved that the facility’s business hours could be the same as the city park hours, which are from 7:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. seven days a week.
“East entrance mini-storage dogs planning board.” Hungry Horse News; 21 May 2014.
“City council goes halfway on the U.S. 2 zoning change.” Hungry Horse News; 24 July 2013.