Helena residents in heated debate

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, August 17, 2005

A heated debate over the building of a self-storage unit in the city of Helena came to an end Monday night when the Helena city council voted to rezone the property in question.

Residents in the nearby community of Brandywine had constantly voiced their disagreement with the proposed mini-storage in the past few weeks, arguing that the site would create serious drainage problems and would be an eyesore.

Helena Mayor Sonny Penhale and councilmembers heard from John DeBuys Jr., the attorney representing the company that hopes to build the storage facility, Clayton-Bailey Properties LLC.

DeBuys showed drawings created by an engineer that would provide for proper drainage in the area and a fence that he said would keep the facility from becoming an eyesore.

In response to the proposed rezoning, residents of the Brandywine community had banded together in the past month to create a neighborhood association with the hope that together they might be able to stop the facility from being built.

&uot;We didn’t want our neighborhood ruined,&uot; resident Dan Nathan said.

Nathan, who was elected to serve as president of the newly organized Brandywine Neighborhood Association, said he has been a resident of the community for three years.

&uot;We are concerned that the gentlemen who own this property will not properly maintain it,&uot; he said.

Nathan had spoken at the past few council meetings in response to presentations by DeBuys and had argued that residents’ needs should be heard and met before the rezoning went forward.

DeBuys noted during the hour-and-a-half meeting that he had met with Nathan and heard the neighborhood association’s concerns and steps had been taken to appease them.

&uot;I believe we have done all we can do for the residents of Brandywine,&uot; he said in addressing the city council. &uot;We have met with them and allowed them to voice their concerns, and now we hope you will see it fit to grant this rezoning.&uot;

Angry residents packed the Helena City Hall courtroom to try and voice their opinions, but Mayor Penhale noted that the residents had been given plenty of chances to speak out during past meetings and that he felt like the concerns of the residents had been fairly heard.

One resident, however, brought pictures forward minutes before the council voted to approve, showing what he believed to be a complete disregard for city codes.

Michael Mollis said the pictures he took of the site where the proposed facility would be located show a number of abandoned vehicles, a large dumpster and scraps of construction materials strewn around the property.

&uot;This is not a storage facility,&uot; Mollis said. &uot;It’s a junkyard. It is bad for the city to allow these men to increase the size of this junkyard.&uot;

City councilmember Katherine Ennis said the council would look into the use of the storage facility but that this was the first time such a complaint had been brought to their attention.

In other business, the council approved the use of more funds from municipal court costs to be placed in the city’s corrections fund. The council also approved an agreement with Brighthouse Communications to allow the cable provider to set up service for citizens of Helena