ASHLAND – The Ashland City Council held its first in-person meeting in more than a month, as a public hearing regarding zoning changes for storage units was held.

The meeting was held in the Ashland Public Library last Thursday. There, Katherine D’Agostino presented information about the storage facility she is planning to build on Highway 6 across from the Iron Horse subdivision entrance. The council was holding the public hearing to discuss Ordinance 1178, which would modify the zoning ordinances for the B-3 Highway Business District.

At the May 7 meeting, the council discussed aspects of the zoning requirements, including the type of surface required for the outdoor storage of boats and recreational vehicles. The Ashland Planning Commission had recommended allowing compacted aggregate rather than concrete or asphalt.

Council Member Chuck Niemeyer was not in favor of the proposal, stating that units in nearby Greenwood, Gretna and Elkhorn do not allow compacted aggregate, while other council members said they were in favor.

The issue of curbing around the outdoor storage area was also discussed. The planning commission recommended removing the requirement to edge the area with a continuous concrete curb. Members of the council suggested other types of materials to keep the aggregate in check, including wood timbers or large rocks.

During the May 21 public hearing, D’Agostino said of the seven storage units within a 10 mile radius of Ashland, only three were paved. The rest, including two in Ashland, were gravel.

“It seems reasonable for the Ashland zoning requirements to mirror those in similar-sized communities,” she added.

Niemeyer continued to hold his stance, saying he did not want the developer to circumvent the city’s regulations to get the project done.

“I don’t like the idea of the city making concession after concession,” he said.

D’Agostino also said she did not feel the planning commission’s recommendations should be disregarded by the city council, as the commission spent three hours discussing the recommendations. Her attorney, Perry Pirsch of Ashland, added that to pave the entire outdoor storage area would cost $200,000 or more, which sets D’Agostino “up for failure.”

D’Agostino is the owner and developer of the business, which will be called Storage Ninja and will have indoor and outdoor storage with security cameras installed. The facility will be unmanned, which is the model self-storage units are using. She is a consultant for self-storage facilities by profession, Pirsch said.

The developer also added that the area is not suitable for any other type of business as it is sandwiched between Highway 6 and the BNSF railroad tracks. She said she plans to put up a wrought iron fence along the highway and was willing to do other measures not required by the zoning regulations to prevent the rock from washing away.

Niemeyer expressed concern that the business would not provide sales tax revenue for the city because it is not located within corporate limits.

Former City Council Member Paul Gossin said that the parcel is located in an area that is scheduled for the next phase of annexation. Gossin worked on the most recent annexation package, which brought Sabre Heights and several other smaller areas around Ashland into the city limits.

“Property tax revenue is solely within your power to get through the annexation process,” he said.

Bob Crisler, a member of the planning commission, said the commission wrestled with this issue for a long time and concluded that the project will convert waste land into productive use.

“I urge the council to try to find accommodation,” he said. “There really isn’t anything else that is feasible for this piece of ground.”

Council Member Jim Anderson said this is an “unusual” piece of ground and he didn’t know what other type of business would fit there.

“It would be a plus for the community and is needed,” he added.

The council approved the second reading of the ordinance. Amendments were made to the ordinance to reword regulations dealing with the prohibition of working on vehicles, to allow 8x8 inch new timber to be used as curbing and allow the outdoor storage area to be surfaced by aggregate with a four-inch rock base and a 1.5-inch skin on top.

In other action, the council extended the deadline for nuisance cleanup at 204 South 23rd Street to July 16. Tammy Williams told the council that it will be done before then. She also asked that the city pay attention to other properties in the community. Council Member Bruce Wischmann said they recently sent letters to 10 property owners.

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