by Ivan Foley
Platte Rental & Supply is the new owner of the former KC Bobcat building at 801 Main Street in Platte City, at the highly visible intersection of I-29 and HH at the northeastern gateway to the city.
The construction equipment and tool rental company has been busy at the location in recent weeks preparing the property for its use. KC Bobcat has moved out of Platte City, north to the I-29 exit at Tracy.
Platte Rental & Supply also has a location at 6304 NW Bell Road in Parkville.
Platte Rental’s preparation work at the site was a topic for discussion at a meeting of the Platte City Planning and Zoning Commission Tuesday night. The company sought an amendment to an existing conditional use permit approved for the site in 2004. Platte Rental & Supply would like to be able to replace the damaged safety fencing that was approved in 2004 with a black vinyl coated chain link fence with a bottom reinforcing ground cable.
The amendment was approved unanimously by the planning commission, paving the way for the installation of the black vinyl coated chain link fence. The installation was begun recently but stopped when owners were notified an amendment to the permit would be needed.
According to DJ Gehrt, city administrator, the site contains several unique characteristics including extreme grade variations from side to side across the front of the property resulting in a nearly 20 foot grade variation between portions of the usable site and Main Street. The city and the previous owner jointly constructed a nearly 20 foot tall retaining wall along a portion of the frontage to make the property useable and to create separation from Main Street. The location of the retaining wall required a zoning variance in 2004 to reduce required front setback requirements. Gehrt said this action eliminated the 10 foot setback requirement and allowed the retaining wall to be placed on the right of way line.
Gehrt explained the height of the retaining wall and the use of the property created a unique situation regarding appropriate site fencing.
“The retaining wall makes things a little bit different,” he said. “The issue is does the black vinyl coated fence do the job (as a safety fence, not a security fence) and does it look good,” Gehrt said.
As there is no single city ordinance/zoning/building code that directly addresses the combination of factors on this site, it was necessary to consider and adopt a number of variances and use conditions to accommodate reasonable use of the site. These actions include the setback variance; a variance allowing aboveground fuel storage and a conditional use permit approving several different fencing requirements (including specific materials) to address the complexity of the site as it related to city zoning and building code requirements.
Gehrt said the 2004 conditional use permit allowed construction of the fence within the normal setback (same as retaining wall), allowed for the use of three rail continuous fencing in locations with less than 30 inch elevation change on either side of the fence and required a see through decorative iron safety fence in locations where the fence abutted areas with at least a 30 inch elevation change.
“In practice these city actions resulted in a three rail continuous iron fence on the east and west borders of the property and a decorative iron safety fence on top of the retaining wall and continuing across the entire Main Street frontage of the property,” Gehrt stated.
Gehrt said the decorative iron safety fence had been badly damaged since its installation in 2004 and was in need of extensive repair or replacement when the property was sold to the current owner in 2016. The owner will retain the existing three rail continuous fence on the east and west property line as these fence sections remain in good condition.
Platte Rental & Supply requested the planning and zoning commission consider amending the 2004 conditional use permit to allow different fencing materials for safety fence on the retaining wall and across the Main Street frontage.
There is no single city zoning ordinance or building code section which directly addresses the combination of the site characteristics, zoning district regulations and proposed use. The need for policy decision on unusual zoning, use and code combinations is the reason for the conditional use permitting process, according to Gehrt.
The city administrator said the need for fencing is driven by the existence and height of the retaining wall as well as the non-retained elevation difference between the usable area of the property and Main Street.
The city building code requires a safety fence on top of any wall or slope with an elevation difference of 30 inches from one side of the wall/slope and the other. The Main Street frontage/retaining wall on this property clearly exceed a 30 inch elevation differential for the majority of the frontage length, city officials said.
The city’s code on security/screening fences generally discourages chain link fencing and requires fencing to be opaque.
But Gehrt said this property and use requires a fence that combines the safety fence characteristics and see through visibility. While the decorative iron fence installed by the previous owner initially met these requirements, it did not prove to be durable or easily repaired, Gehrt explained.
As a result the fence became increasingly less safe and visibly less attractive over time.
“By the time the fence was removed in the summer of 2016 it was having a detrimental impact on the property appearance,” Gehrt said.
The positive impact of the amendment, Gehrt said, is that a black vinyl coated chain link fence (with bottom cable) along the Main Street frontage meets safety fence requirements. Gehrt said in his opinion the flexibility of chain link will improve the durability over the previous fence and long term appearance compared to the previous fence, which he said was visibly damaged by virtually every impact.
The proposed fence will also meet the owner’s requirement for see-through visibility for equipment sales and rental.
Gehrt admitted that from the city’s point of view, the negative impact of the proposal is that it may increase interest in the installation of chain link fencing for uses and purposes in other areas of the city that do not have the same property and use characteristics.
Another potential impact is the city’s acceptance of a financial consideration in the choice of materials. Although there is intrinsic benefits for chain link in this application, it is also less costly for the owner than a city requirement for another decorative iron fence.
Since the amendment was granted, city staff recommends that the planning and zoning commission direct staff to prepare a revision to the C2 zoning regulations to limit chain link on C2 frontages to those uses which require both a safety fence and see through characteristics.
Improvements to appearance and durability of chain link fencing may also allow the commission to consider approval of coated, color coordinated chain link fencing for security fencing on the back and non-visible sides throughout the C2 zoning districts, the city administrator said.