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Editor's Note: Death of a neighborhood
Rendering of proposed self-storage warehouse

THE BAD NEWS keeps coming with the redevelopment of the Johnny Harris/Wicklow Stables parcel and surrounding East Victory Drive corridor.

While it seems a fait accompli that the development will happen in some form or fashion— currently slated to involve an unnamed grocer with outparcel retail – citizens are now finding out what will actually be the first thing to happen.

A large unused wooded lot on Limerick Street behind Whole Foods is set to become a self-storage mini-warehouse, frequently the first and quickest way to generate revenue on undeveloped land.

Not just a mini-warehouse—a five-story mini-warehouse.

If completed, it would be one of the tallest structures in Chatham County outside of downtown.

Not so “mini” after all.

The irony that this monstrosity would be plunked down in one of the few remaining bits of greenspace on the Eastside other than Daffin Park itself is painful.

A concerned neighbor says the development the Metropolitan Planning Commission is now allowing in the corridor makes a mockery of the MPC’s own “Tricentennial Plan.”

That attempt at a unified zoning ordinance was adopted ten years ago with much hoopla, but is now virtually ignored in favor of ad hoc development variances.

“What they’re basically doing is coming up with a whole new theme of the area, through constant amendments,” says the neighbor, who prefers to remain anonymous. “Does everyone who asks for a variance have to be granted one?”

In this case, the developer wants a variance on the size of the landscaping, or “vegetative” buffer. They want the MPC to reduce the buffer from 25 feet to only 10 feet, even though it borders residences.

The good news is that currently MPC is recommending that the requested buffer variance be denied. They still, however, recommend approving the other variance, the requirement that such a business be located on a so-called “collector street,” allowing this one to be built essentially on a dead-end street or cul-de-sac.

Sadly, the most egregious aspect of the warehouse, its sheer height, doesn’t appear to be up for discussion.

The MPC staff report reads:

Self-storage mini-warehouse businesses serve as property repositories for absentee tenants who visit their units infrequently, as a rule. Limerick Street is a developed dead end roadway between two telecommunications towers and behind a developed grocery store and shopping mall. Further development on the roadway is unlikely.

While from an auto traffic standpoint a warehouse might seem ideal, another important aspect of community is vibrancy, and traffic other than cars, such as pedestrians and bicyclists.

Anyone who has been to a self-storage facility knows they are desolate and devoid of human presence 99 percent of the time, but for security reasons they still must be kept very brightly-lit 24 hours a day.

So this self-storage warehouse will not only be a grotesquely out-of-scale light-polluting eyesore, it will contribute literally nothing to the community fabric, not even added shopping or dining.

It’s possible to come to terms with the rest of the development slated for the area, especially now that City Council in a 7-2 vote already gave away its last bargaining chip by allowing full right-of-way on a public street through the heart of the main parcel.

(Parkside/Ardsley’s own newly elected Alderman Julian Miller voted yes, much to the chagrin of many of those who eagerly voted for him this past November.)

But it seems like a five-story mini-warehouse is just insult to injury, basically the coup de grace to an already beleaguered neighborhood. Would you agree?

If so, there is one chance to register your disapproval in person. This Thursday, March 24, at 10 a.m. at 110 E. State St., the MPC is set to hold a hearing in which, among other things, the mini-warehouse variance requests will be discussed.

One of the big issues with the entire Johnny Harris redevelopment was that the general public was so behind the curve on the proposals.

Whether this is because people are just too busy to keep up (very possible), we in the media did a poor job of informing them (very, very possible), or that the intersection of politicians and developers want the public to know as little as possible (very, very, very possible), the fact remains that residents were mostly blindsided.

"Pretty soon, as they're driving around people will point and remember what used to be here," says the concerned neighbor. "They'll say, 'There used to be a big historic ballroom here. There was once a beautiful horse pasture here.' It's such a shame we can't seem to plan any better than this."

This is a chance to get involved—likely one of the last.