Waterleigh residents rally against self-storage unit

More than 130 residents attended a community meeting in Horizon West to voice their opposition to proposed village center changes.

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More than 130 Horizon West residents packed a community meeting Thursday, June 8, to tell Orange County Government they don’t want a self-storage facility in their backyard.

Orange County District 1 Commissioner Nicole Wilson requested the applicant hold the meeting to get feedback on proposed changes to the plan for the Waterleigh Village Shopping Center, located north of Water Springs Boulevard and west of Avalon Road. Waterleigh is the village center for Horizon West’s Village H.

The applicant, Erika Hughes, of VHB Inc., initially proposed two new permitted uses in the Waterleigh Planned Development in Horizon West at the May 2 Orange County Board of County Commissioners meeting — one to allow Publix to have a liquor store component and the other to allow for a self-storage facility. Wilson made a motion, which passed, to continue the discussion to give VHB time to hold the community meeting.

The June 8 meeting, held at Water Spring Elementary, gave residents an opportunity to provide feedback to the applicant. Wilson said Waterleigh residents have stayed engaged in conversations pertaining to their neighborhood.

“That area, Waterleigh, is building out very fast, and those people are really engaged in what’s going on out there,” she said.

They have made it clear they don’t want to see a storage building near their homes, she said.

Wilson said she received numerous emails from District 1 residents, including one woman who shared her frustration at the county commission and its “constant ignoring of the planned development and zoning of the Horizon West area.”

The resident said she bought her home based on the knowledge that future development would include desirable dwellings and businesses that would increase her property values, not decrease it.

“Instead, I now live in a sea of apartment buildings,” she wrote. “I invested my life into my home and this area, and I’m not thrilled about the trashy neighbors the zoning will allow in with poorly maintained apartments (already existing) and a self-storage place. … I bought in one of the nicest areas in town … or so I thought.”

“It was pretty obvious early on that (the self-storage facility) wasn’t going to be a fit for that intended area,” Wilson said. “My biggest concern in any application coming forward is safety. … The second is compatibility. The village centers, the areas such as this one in the Horizon West plan, were intended to be walkable, bikeable services for residents surrounding that area. … What would be the purpose of self-storage in walkable, bikeable communities? There are lots of trucks coming and going.”

Wilson said another self-storage unit was approved in Horizon West a few months ago but it is in an area surrounded by medical services and a hospital.

“It was very different than one with a pedestrian gate right in someone’s backyard,” she said.

At the May 2 BCC meeting, three Waterleigh residents spoke to the commission. They said the area already has a liquor store and multiple self-storage facilities and adding more incompatible business types would decrease property values and increase light pollution. They asked for retail stores, a gym, restaurants and cafes.

Hughes explained the proposal would put the self-storage facility behind the Publix supermarket; Wilson said this would put it even closer to residents.

The discussion will be continued at the June 20 BCC meeting.


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