Riverside blocks one path to U-Haul taking over former K-Mart site

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City council voted not to rezone the property but could alter current zoning code

RIVERSIDE — U-Haul’s plan to transform the former site of a K-Mart store into a storage and truck terminal was blocked this week after city officials voted against rezoning the property.

In a 6-1 vote, the City Council voted not to rezone the property ― located on Woodman Drive ― from general business to light industrial. Mayor Peter Williams cast the lone vote in favor rezoning the property.

Rezoning is not the only way U-Haul could get what it needs. At a meeting that’s scheduled for Monday, the City Planning Commission will consider an amendment allowing indoor storage and retail moving centers under business zoning.

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City Council Member April Franklin said she is not opposed to U-Haul moving into the space, but would rather change the zoning code than rezone the property.

“I hated that the change in the zoning became about either pro-U-Haul or against U-Haul, and to me it should never have been that,” she said. “It shouldn’t have been about a business … This is about finding the best use for that space … Basically, the city is considering changing what business zoning means.”

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Williams said the zoning code is out of date and he doesn’t view U-Haul’s proposal for the site as an industrial use.

“But the zoning code that we were presented with, that’s the only way we could make it work and try to reinvigorate a major corridor in our city that has more vacancies that we care to deal with and that was before COVID,” he said.

Williams pointed out that there is more than a quarter-million square feet of empty retail space in the Woodman-Harshman corridor, and U-Haul has been a reliable partner to the city in the past. U-Haul plans to purchase the former K-Mart property and invest about $7 million in the proposed project.

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Not everyone in Riverside wants U-Haul to take over the space. One community member said at Thursday’s public hearing that citizens are not excited about a storage facility and the city is “settling” for a less than ideal business at the location.

Council Member Brenda Fry said she is concerned about the adverse effects large truck traffic would have on residents surrounding the proposed U-Haul site. She also pointed out that self-storage does not create many jobs.

Although the only application the city has received for that property is from U-Haul, a woman speaking during the public hearing said she was an attorney representing a Fortune 500 retailer that is interested in the location and maintaining its current zoning.

Another community member said during the public hearing that if the city council prevents U-Haul from moving in, the council members should work hard to find a better business to occupy that location.

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