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U-Haul could build second location in Riverside

ED RICHTER/STAFF
ED RICHTER/STAFF

After much debate, the Riverside City Council narrowly moved forward legislation that would allow U-Haul to occupy the former K-Mart space on Woodman Drive.

If approved, the legislation would change the zoning for that area from general business to light industrial. U-Haul plans to buy the site and redevelop it as a storage and truck terminal, if the legislation is approved. There would also be a retail U-Haul store on the site. The site is about 10 acres.

This is similar to legislation that city council turned down about a year ago.

At the city council’s special meeting on Thursday, Mark Quinn, of U-Haul Dayton, said he came back to try to get this approved a second time because he felt that his business could benefit the citizens of Riverside in that location.

“We’re changing our image from the old gas station U-Haul people are used to from the 60′s and 70′s,” Quinn said. “We’re a very nice, upstanding Fortune 500 company that wants to invest $6 million to $7 million dollars in your city.”

Quinn stated that U-Haul as a company purchased over 60 former K-Marts across the U.S. and redeveloped them. Quinn said he personally has purchased and redeveloped one Walmart in Trotwood and sees it being successful in the future. U-Haul currently has a location in Riverside on Linden Avenue.

Several citizens spoke in favor and against U-Haul occupying the site.

“I see nothing wrong with U-Haul going in there,” said citizen Lori Luckner. “I drive the whole length of Woodman every day to go to work and to see the number of vacancies in our city is unbelievable.”

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Ken Curp said he didn’t think that U-Haul could bring Riverside the right amount of income tax dollars.

“This city needs money. It’s needed money for a long time,” Curp said. “It’s landlocked, has no room to expand, has to rely mostly on redevelopment and the only way you do that is to take a look at how you optimize the return off the development activities that you’re going to do.”

Council and city staff were also split on what would be the best use of the site.

“I don’t think it is the end of the world as we know it if we give the site to U-Haul,” said Mayor Pete Williams.

Williams said that the offer from U-Haul is the only current offer, calling it a “bird in the hand.”

Councilman Mike Denning was opposed to rezoning the site and U-Haul occupying the space.

“I don’t want to see us become the storage capital,” Denning said. “I don’t want to see us sell ourselves short.”

Councilwoman Sara Lommatzsch said she thought approving the legislation would undermine city staff.

“I think that we cannot give away a prime piece of real estate,” Lommatzsch said. “I don’t know who decided it had to be a business property.”

Gary Burkholder, the city’s economic development director, said he didn’t think that retail storage was the “highest use” for the Woodman property.

Burkholder, who has been on the job since January, said the city hasn’t really had a chance to market the site. Burkholder also worried that if the Woodman property were to be used for storage that other vacant lots in town would also be used for storage retail.

“I would hate to see us take the first offer,” Burkholder said. “It is too early to count out the city and redevelopment.”

The K-Mart building has been empty for three years.

The motion passed with councilmembers Dan Teaford, April Franklin, Brenda Fry and the mayor voting in favor. Councilmembers Denning, Beverly Campbell and Lommatzsch voted against the legislation. The next reading and hearing for this legislation will be Aug. 20.