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Storage business can stay

The debate stretched for more than four hours, but in the end, City Council members gave a reprieve Thursday to an indoor storage facility that wasn't in the correct zoning district.

The council voted 6-2 to change the zoning of the Rutland Northeast Storage site from residential-office retail to commercial general. The decision overturned the vote of the Planning Commission, which had denied the request.

The storage facility, at 898 30th Ave. N, borders four neighborhoods. At a hearing Thursday, several neighborhood leaders voiced strong opposition to the change.

"I don't want commercial land in my neighborhood," said Maureen Eppley, president of the Greater Woodlawn Neighborhood Association.

Several council members expressed concern over why owner Hubert Rutland was allowed to start the business in the incorrect zoning district. Some questioned whether he had misled city staffers when applying for permits.

Rutland said he never tried to hide the nature of his business.

"I find it kind of offensive for council to think I was trying to make an end run around the code," he said. "I thought at the time I was doing everything properly."

Rutland bought the building in February 2002 for $577,000. A sign that didn't meet code requirements attracted investigators, who discovered that the business wasn't in the proper zoning district.

Several neighborhood residents and business owners were at the hearing to speak in support of the Rutlands. They said the storage facility was an asset to the neighborhood and created little traffic.

But Stephanie Pitts, president of the Crescent Heights Neighborhood Association, said the business didn't fit the character of the neighborhood.

"What kills me is this is an example of, "Well, everybody else is not following the rules; let's just change the rules,' " she said.

Two council members, Virginia Littrell and Richard Kriseman, sided with the neighbors who opposed the change. But the remaining six disagreed.

"I think the actual business there fits," said council member John Bryan. "It serves a useful purpose."