U-Haul denied unique marketing approach

A request to display the company’s rental trucks in lieu of store-front signage at the U-Haul center proposed for the south side of Ga. Highway 34 at Aces Circle near Thomas Crossroads was denied on a 2-3 vote by the Coweta County Commission at the April 17 meeting.

The variance request sought to have the company display up to seven of its lease fleet vehicles along Hwy. 34 as a substitute for the customary monument signage often used by highway businesses. The applicant noted that it is imperative to display each of the type of their fleet in a manner that is not hidden by the building. This is part of the marketing and advertising for U-Haul, county Director of Planning and Development Robert Tolleson said in a March 28 letter.

The store is designed to be a corporate-owned center, said U-Haul Real Estate Division President Carlos Vizcarra. The request would essentially substitute the customary signage and, instead, having U-Haul vehicles lining the front of the property to serve as the method of advertising, Vizcarra said.

“With 1,400 locations, people since 1946 have seen and recognize our trucks. Communities are full of sign-clutter. People respond to being able to see the trucks,” Vizcarra said of the company’s preferred method of site advertising in response to a question posed by Commissioner Tim Lassetter.

Citing the ordinance pertaining to the Quality Development Corridor District (QDCD) in which the property is located, Zoning Administrator Angela White said county planning staff recommended a denial of the request.

The applicant is requesting relief from the intent or purpose of the QDCD which prohibits outdoor display areas of merchandise, White said. Approval of the request would set a precedent for the outside display of a product, she said.

Citing one of several reasons for the denial, White said, “The intent of the Quality Development Corridor District must be considered. As stated in the Zoning and Development Ordinance, ‘the purpose is to promote the health, safety and general welfare of the public; encourage harmonious community development; conserve natural resources, enhance the economic and aesthetic appeal and to promote orderly development of properties within the corridor.’ As we know, State Route 34 is the gateway into our county and the QDCD goal is to provide the pristine design that reflects the character of the area.”

U-Haul was proposing a short wall and screening between the roadway and the display trucks but the idea was not sufficient to gain the approval of the majority of commissioners. Commissioners Al Smith and Rodney Brooks voted in favor of granting the variance request but were unable to obtain a majority vote when commissioners Lassetter, Bob Blackburn and Paul Poole voted in opposition.

Lassetter prior to the vote noted that a similar request by Tractor Supply, located a short distance to the west on Hwy. 34 but several hundred feet off the roadway, was recently denied.

Commissioners at the meeting did approve two variances at the rear of the U-Haul property. One of those involved a 40-foot setback from the adjacent property line rather than the 50-foot distance in the ordinance. The other, a buffer reduction request, involved a 65-foot setback rather than the 75-foot requirement.

Both the planning department and the Board of Zoning Appeals had recommended approval.