Mansfield News

Storage facility comes under fire near school

A contentious plan for a storage center on East Broad Street near Willie Brown Elementary School got a second approval from the City Council late Monday night.

The three-story facility would have 578 climate-controlled rental units.

The council voted 5-2 to allow the storage center use on the property despite pleas from residents in the Arbors of Creekwood neighborhood. Several residents raised concerns about having a storage facility next to an elementary school. Dozens turned in cards in opposition.

Councilman Stephen Lindsey voted against the project just as he did on first reading. Councilman Cory Hoffman also cast a no vote. Lindsey initially made a motion to deny the project, but it failed for lack of a second. Still, several council members expressed misgivings about the project and will discuss it again before the final vote July 11.

Danny Ray, owner of Ray’s Pharmacy at the corner of East Broad Street and Cannon Drive, said he purchased the property in 2005 with the understanding that the Shops at Broad Street retail project would be developed nearby soon. That Shops project hasn’t happened, yet.

“I wanted something especially nice next to my $4 million investment,” Ray said.

Lindsey, who lives near the area, asked Ray why he didn’t want to wait until the Shops at Broad Street develops.

“The whole corridor could end up yielding a much better use,” Lindsey said.

But Ray said he’s ready to sell now.

“I need to turn some dirt,” Ray said.

He said opponents of the project bullied him on the Internet but never contacted him directly, citing an online petition with hundreds of signatures.

“They are affecting a sale I have waited 11 years for,” Ray said. “I’m invested big-time. This fine storage facility will work great. The property is for sale. Buy it and you can build exactly what you want.”

Mayor David Cook said he liked the layout of the building because the units are only accessible from the inside.

The Mansfield school district met with the developer and its only request was to put vinyl slats in the chain link fence to provide privacy for Willie Brown Elementary.

In other business, Newman International Academy is officially coming to Walnut Ridge Baptist Church in Mansfield. The council voted 6-1 on final reading to allow the church to have a school operate in its Sunday school space. Lindsey voted no because he’s concerned about increased traffic.

Kindergarten through fourth-grade classes will start this August with about 200 students. Additional grade levels will be added to the state-funded charter school in future years.

The council included a stipulation for a gate on Cannon Drive on the southwest corner of Walnut Ridge’s property. It must be closed at 10 p.m. each night, as requested by neighbors to the west.