By Deb Murphy
Last Tuesday afternoon’s Inyo Board of Supervisors timed item was eerily familiar. A land owner needed a conditional use permit on his property, neighbors hated the proposed use and the Planning Commission passed on the issue.
In late August, the Bishop City Council listened as East Line Street residents slammed a metal building for personal storage on a lot zoned for retail. The neighbors hated it and in this case the Planning Commissioners nixed the project and the owners, Roy and Beulah Chacon appealed to the Council—and got their project nixed a second time.
Tuesday, Marty Williams appealed a non-decision (the same as a no) by the County’s Commission for a storage facility at the corner of Gerkin and North roads in Wilkerson. Currently, the site hosts an abandoned blue building that once was a convenience store that served really good pizza according to Supervisor Rick Pucci.
Chair Dan Totheroh grilled Williams after the neighbors expressed their fears, fears that ranged from out-of-the-area folks in their neighborhood to safety issues. Totheroh tried to assuage residents’ fears but ran out of time. The final resolution was worthy of a Solomon. Planning staff will get together with Williams and his potential neighbors to see if there’s a way to move forward. Then come back before the Board in early November.
But there are a lot of neighbors’ issues that have to be resolved.
Like the Line Street case, the land is not zoned residential—the one use protestors thought made sense. Retail and C-2, the zoning on the Gerkin property, properties technically have a greater monetary value than residential zoning. The County can’t arbitrarily change zoning unless the owner asks for the move. That would amount to a take.
Also like Line Street, anti-project folks were reminded what could go into the site consistent with the zoning and not up for review or community input. In Bishop, the worst case scenario was a Seven-11. In Wilkerson, the lot could be used for a trailer park, motel or liquor store, to name just a few enterprises drawing folks not from the community in droves.
Williams’ project would include 41 containers, brand new and painted beige, motion sensor lighting and no electricity so those storing materials couldn’t use the facility for other operations. He’s already put up a wooden fence at the back of the lot and removed dead trees, leaving enough to reduce the visual impact.
Williams owns a larger facility, with 130 units, in Laws, zoned industrial.
Neighbors list of bad things included the site would attract transients as well as folks not from Wilkerson, a proposed Porta-Potty wasn’t pleasing, diminished property values, a school bus stop close by and people would party at the site.
Acting CAO Clint Quilter came up with the potential resolution. Planning Director Catherine Richards agreed to get the neighbors together with staff and Williams and see what could be resolved.