Local real-estate brokers Todd and Tyler Leinbach want to open a self-storage business in southern Forsyth County using shipping containers for units, but neighbors of the site oppose the idea, saying that they are concerned about possible environmental impacts and other issues.

“What we have found is that people are moving to Forsyth County faster than they ever have, so a lot of storage facilities are at full capacity,” Tyler Leinbach said. “That’s because they specialize in small storage units.”

Leinbach said he and his father plan to focus on much larger units “where people can put an entire household in one unit, and save them some money.”

He also said that the self-storage business would focus on companies, saying that the economy is growing and causing some businesses to need expansion space for such things as overflow inventory.

But Jorge Abrego, who lives behind the proposed storage site, said he and his neighbors get their water from wells.

Abrego said he has done some research about shipping containers and found that some come from overseas.

He said he doesn’t know what possible hazardous items have been or are still in the containers, nor what people would store in them.

He said he is also worried that the units could be repainted.

“Whatever is inside of those containers might leak out and hit our water supply,” Abrego said, referring to when it rains.

At the City-County Planning Board’s Nov. 8 meeting, the Leinbachs requested that about 3.2 acres on the southeast side of Ebert Road, north of Evans Road, be rezoned from residential to general business-limited.

However, the planning board voted to recommend that the Forsyth County Board of Commissioners, which makes the final decision, deny the rezoning request.

After a public hearing at their Dec. 20 meeting, the county commissioners voted unanimously to remand the proposal back to the planning board.

“The intent was the petitioners would prepare a site plan and go to GB-S (general business-special) instead of GB-L-no site plan (general business-limited-no site plan),” said Gary Roberts, a project planner for planning and development services for Winston-Salem and Forsyth County.

Tyler Leinbach said he will have a site plan ready by Tuesday’s deadline to make the next planning-board cycle.

The Neighbors

Several neighbors of the proposed project site, including Abrego, spoke at the e county commissioners’ Dec. 20 meeting.

Lee Hege said that when he bought his property, which is in a rural area, he didn’t buy it to live near a business.

Hege said the Leinbachs said they would probably have just 25 to 30 units on the site but he wonders how that could make it a viable business.

“As a businessman myself, I’m thinking about growing at every turn, and I can’t believe that they would be buying this without thinking about, what I believe (Commissioner Don) Martin said, adding more and more on,” Hege said.

Abrego told the commissioners that the self-storage business would be an eyesore.

“I don’t like it,” he said.

On Wednesday, Abrego said he is also concerned that if the self-storage business were approved, someday the property could be resold to anybody.

“If you put a gas station there, well, there we are,” he said as an example.

With the commissioners sending the proposal back to the planning board, Abrego said, “It made me feel like no one wanted to take responsibility, no one wanted to make that decision.”

He said that not everyone can take off work to attend meetings about the request.

The Leinbachs

The Leinbachs have the property they want rezoned under contract. It is owned by Gerald Byerly and William Byerly.

Tyler Leinbach said he and his father have done their best to invite people who live in the neighborhood to meet and discuss their concerns, but the neighbors have declined.

He said their self-storage business would focus on storage units that are 160 square feet or 320 square feet and would offer attractive prices.

Plans are to use units that are less than a year old.

“We’re only going to be using 1 of the 3 acres,” he said.

In terms of effects on the land, he said they would not erect permanent structures or pour concrete or asphalt.

He said there would be light foot- and car-traffic issues to consider, and no runoff or environmental hazards.

“It’s a gravel parking lot with waterproof units,” Leinbach said. He said they would keep the current trees on the property and would plant Leyland cypress trees to create a natural buffer zone, put up an 8-foot fence and install only motion-activated lights.

Leinbach said they wouldn’t stack the units and wouldn’t move them unless Ebert Road is widened.

He said he is an environmentally conscious person.

“Dad and I both live within five minutes of the property,” Leinbach said. “I grew up in the area.”

Planning

Roberts said that the South Suburban area plan, which was adopted in 2017, recommends that “commercial land use in that area be concentrated at the intersection of Ebert Road and Clemmonsville Road, which is further north of this site.”

In addition, the proposed site is surrounded by single-family residential zoning.

Planners are also concerned about potential problems for safe and convenient access to the existing Kimmel Farm Elementary and Flat Rock Middle schools, as well as a planned high school to the south.

“It could set a precedent for additional commercial rezonings all the way south to Kimmel Farm Elementary and Flat Rock Middle schools,” Roberts said of the rezoning proposal.

Leinbach said if a new school is built, the business could be moved back another 30 feet to allow Ebert Road to be widened.

He said that the area is primarily residential, but when people are buying houses, they need somewhere to put their stuff temporarily.

Leinbach, who is 25, added that there is already a body shop nearby that has been in the area for as long as he can remember.

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fdaniel@wsjournal.com 336-727-7366 @fdanielWSJ

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