Payson’s effort to loosen limits on big storage containers instead triggered contradictions and complaints — and the discovery that the police department is among the leading violators.
The effort to redraft the rules on the use of large storage containers on business and residential properties provoked some unexpected resistance last week at a Payson Town Council meeting.
One local business smarting from a citation said the proposed ordinance would do more harm than good — and would also require the town to cite the police department for violations.
The dust-up recalled the mess the town got into when a flurry of citations revealed widespread violations with other town codes, including restrictions on RV parking and on temporary business signs. In both cases, residents complained about strict town codes and selective enforcement.
Currently, CARQUEST has three metal storage containers behind the auto parts store at Highway 87 and East Main Street. However, the new ordinance would allow only one container for a lot under one acre and a maximum of two containers on larger lots.
Michael Harper, CARQUEST’s attorney, told the council that removing one storage unit would cost owner Ralph Lucht 10 percent of his product line. Fewer products would decrease revenue and potentially force him to lay off two full-time employees.
Already, Lucht’s business is down 50 percent from six years ago. That includes a 22 percent drop in the past 12 months.
“I spoke with Ralph before I came in here today and he was very candid about his business and I was surprised at how candid he wanted me to be in this public setting,” Harper said. “This is a very, very big deal to him.”
Mayor Kenny Evans said staff had intended to loosen restrictions on storage units, previously limited to 128 square feet in size. The new law boosts the size to 320 square feet.
“Why, in this economy, do things that make it more difficult for businesses to thrive?”
Attorney for CARQUEST
Harper said he did not understand why the town was putting any restrictions on the number of units. He asked if the town had received complaints about the aesthetics of storage units.
Town Manager Debra Galbraith said Payson had received a complaint about CARQUEST’s storage units some time ago.
Town staff sent Lucht a violation notice, the first one issued for storage units. Afterward, Harper sent the town a list of businesses and organizations that were also violating the code, including the Payson Police Department.
Galbraith said she knows the police department is violating the town code and is seeking a solution. She said after citing half a dozen other businesses, town code enforcement officers realized the code needed reviewing.
Councilor Fred Carpenter said he had never heard any complaints about storage containers and didn’t feel comfortable voting for an ordinance that may impact struggling businesses.
Harper said the ordinance would have a definite impact on CARQUEST, the only locally owned auto parts store in town.
“Why, in this economy, do things that make it more difficult for businesses to thrive?” he said.
He added the real eyesore is not metal storage containers, but a litter of empty storefronts in town.
Harper suggested the town adopt an ordinance that deals with storage containers commercially on a case-by-case basis, looking at both the lot size and the visibility of units.
Councilor John Wilson suggested a variance for units not visible from the street.
Evans said he would work with staff on the ordinance and bring it back at the next council meeting.