The City of Lake Havasu Zoning and Planning Commission did not grant Unisource a conditional use permit that would have allowed the company to store electrical and gas equipment outdoors just south of the Lake Havasu stores. But the commission did not reject the request either.
The six commissioners seated for Wednesday’s meeting were split in two.
As the application was not approved by a majority, the conditional use license was not granted. But the commission’s decision can still be appealed to the municipal council.
Guy Eckland of Unisource told the commission that the power company currently has two sites in the city of Lake Havasu – one for its office and one for its warehouse. But he said Unisource was starting to outgrow the two sites. Eckland said Unisource is currently in the process of purchasing just over eight acres at 35 Retail Center Blvd., with plans to consolidate all of its operations into one location.
Eckland said Unisource is ready to work with the commission and is ready to review any additional requirements that may be added to the permit.
The land is located between Jr. Motors RV & Marine and the southernmost entrance to The Shops at Lake Havasu from State Route 95. It has frontage along SR 95, Retail Center Blvd, Airport Center Blvd. and Showplace Ave.
Planning Division Director Luke Morris explained that the office building and warehouse are both permitted uses within the general commercial zoning of the property. But the requested conditional use license is necessary to allow Unisource to store some of its equipment outside.
City staff suggested adding a condition to the permit that would require a 6-foot-high opaque fence surrounding part of the property with the warehouse and storage, as well as compliance with landscaping requirements of the city along all facades.
After some discussion between the commissioners, chairman Jim Harris said he thought that, if approved, they should require the walls to be at least 8 feet high, and possibly 10 feet. He said he would also prefer to require solid block walls, rather than opaque walls which can be made with a wooden fence or a chain link fence with slats.
Rob Sampson, of Sellberg and Associates who worked on the designs for Unisource, said the potential development would be good for the region – bringing 100 staff into The Shops every day.
“We are attracting more people to the area who will be very well paid and highly skilled,” Sampson said. “They will be using restaurants and stores – and this is not another storage facility. They will bring employees.
He also noted that The Shops’ focus on retail has slackened in recent years to incorporate other types of businesses.
“I agree with everything you just said – everything,” Nelson replied. “But I just feel like it’s really a square-hole, round-peg situation. We really need to protect this northern gate where people drive into our city…I have no complaints with Unisource. They have been great business for Lake Havasu.
Sampson responded that this particular property is south of the stores, so it wouldn’t be the first thing people see when they drive into Lake Havasu City on State Route 95. He also pointed out that a lot of the property to the south of The Shops is approximately to be fitted out with storage units.
Nelson said he was confident the Unisource office building, which would be the most prominent building in the potential Unisource complex, would look great. He said the warehouse building could also be designed to look good from the highway. But he said the site plan presented leaves too much visibility from State Route 95.
“It could work, it’s just not designed to protect that northern entrance,” Nelson said. “But it could be. So I would recommend denying that for now, but coming back with a different design. If Unisource is running out of space, we have to try to help. But there’s trucking here, and all of this will be visible from the highway. This commission is really trying to protect this northern gate.
Harris said that request was particularly tricky for him.
“Unisource and their parent company Tuscon Electric are doing a good job in this city, and we have to try to accommodate them,” he said. “However, this site is a bit problematic… I think Unisource would keep this year pretty pristine, but the bottom line is that there will be a lot of equipment in there that can be seen above a wall of 8 or 10 feet.”
Harris said he was originally against the proposal, but said he now thinks it could work with the right conditions imposed.
Nelson moved to deny the request, which was seconded by commissioner David Diaz. The vote was tied 3-3, with commissioners Harris, Don Bergen and Suzannah Ballard all casting dissenting votes.
City Attorney Kelly Garry said that in the event of a tie, a motion fails. She said that the commission could continue the discussion or try another motion.
After several minutes of discussion, Diaz made another motion to deny the request – seconded by Nelson – but the vote remained split 3-3. No other requests were made, so the conditional use license was not granted.
Morris said the commission’s decision on conditional use permits is usually final, but the applicant can appeal the decision to the city council.