Danedri Thompson
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Planning commissioners debated the merits of amending city codes related to outdoor storage during a meeting March 27.
Gardner City Planner Amy Kynard told commissioners the existing code allows outdoor storage in industrial zoned districts, but it doesn’t define outdoor storage or lot surface requirements. She presented staff recommended code changes to commissioners.
Jim Coughenour, representing Gardner Bank, worried that the proposed changes might be too restrictive. The bank is marketing an industrial zoned property on Moonlight. Additional restrictions might make the property more difficult for a potential buyer to use.
“I would hate to see (the guidelines) changed to be more strict than what we already have,” he said.
Twice under the existing guidelines city council members have rejected proposed special uses for the property that has affected the bank’s ability to make a sale, Coughenour said.
The proposed codes would require that storage areas be enclosed on all sides with a six-to-eight-foot, solid fence.
Commissioner Dan Popp said currently there are stores in town that should be examined due to their outdoor storage.
“Places like Ace Hardware and Walmart have visible outdoor storage,” Popp said.
City code allows the outdoor storage of items available for retail. Popp said some retailers store items that are for store use and not for sale, and their outdoor storage is visible to the public on at least one side.
Other commissioners said requiring retailers to enclose their wares with solid fences would be restrictive and could lead to code enforcement concerns.
Commissioners also debated the use of gravel lots for outdoor storage on industrial sites.
Kynard said gravel is less expensive, but creates environmental concerns.
“Most of those types of facilities, they don’t want to pave,” Kynard said.
Commissioners approved proposed amendments that allow for gravel, but industrial storage lots using gravel would be required to submit a dust control plan. Additionally,  industrial site plans with outdoor storage would require approval by the planning commission as well as the city council.
City council members will be asked to approve the code changes as well.
In other business, planning commissioners:
• approved the 2012-2017 capital improvement plan. City council will also be asked to improve the plan.
• discussed landscaping requirements code changes that will come before them in the near future.