Despite protests from neighbors about noise pollution and a council member who said it would make Burnt Store Road appeal to the "lowest common denominator," Cape Coral City Council narrowly passed an ordinance allowing the Burnt Store Center to build an 8-foot-tall wall on its property and start a truck-rental business.
The decision at the regular meeting Monday evening at City Hall, reversed an earlier decision by the Planning & Zoning Commission that didn't approve a deviation for an 8-foot-tall wall or the exception to allow truck rentals.
The business, on the corner of Burnt Store Road and Tropicana Boulevard, has been trying to open a truck-rental business since 2004, when the Planned Development Project was established.
Joe Mazurkiewicz, representing store owner Charles DeBono, said under the original PDP, rental trucks had to be stored inside.
"The housing of trucks indoors isn't standard procedure. It meets the criteria because furniture stores can have trucks parked in site," Mazurkiewicz said.
U-Haul representative Ken Fullmer showed the council a map of Cape Coral, showing the need the city has for such a rental service.
"Another truck rental place will mean less travel and a smaller carbon footprint," Fullmer said.
Richard O'Donnell, president of the North Cape Neighborhood Association, wasn't convinced. He gave a lengthy argument against a truck-rental place, saying it would be an eyesore for a neighborhood with middle- and upper-middle-class dwellings.
"It's dj-vu all over again. The said special exception will make Burnt Store Road look like Del Prado," O'Donnell said.
O'Donnell questioned DeBono's dedication to the neighborhood, saying he promised to landscape and buffer the property to reduce its footprint on the neighborhood.
He also showed photos of other places in town that rented U-Hauls that showed trucks and moving units in front of buildings to illustrate the "blight" it would create.
O'Donnell had an ally in Councilmember Kevin McGrail, who said the wall would make the place look like a "prison yard" and that this decision would alter the vision of the pristine Northwest Cape.
"The challenge is we have a blank slate in the northwest corner. How it moves forward will be perpetuated by this," McGrail said. "Don't accept 'good enough.' If you want to change the promises made to previous councils, you'll get the lowest common denominator."
McGrail motioned to deny, but to keep the communication tower and car wash.
Councilmember Marty McClain took umbrage at the way the neighbors came down on DeBono and his business.
"The association watching over the business owner and critiquing him is offensive. It's borders on stalking," McClain said. "Are we going to make a decision on what happened and what didn't?"
Public input was just as divided. Jacob Scott said the DeBonos are good neighbors, though not thrilled with U-Hauls, while Rick Williams said the owners took part in a neighborhood clean-up day and let them use their property as backdrop for a news story.
Neighbor Ed Mars said the palm trees didn't block the view of trucks and that U-Hauls would make things worse.
Councilmember Rana Erbrick made a suggestion to build a 10-foot wall, since that's the height of their tallest truck, and the neighbors agreed to plant all the trees that were supposed to be planted in the 2004 agreement.
It was agreed they would build an 8-foot wall, with two feet of ornamentation.
The vote went 5-3, with Mayor John Sullivan, McGrail and John Carioscia voting against.