A plan to outfit shipping containers for retail on the corner of Second and Main streets is dead.
The Henderson City-County Joint Planning Commission Wednesday night denied a request to approve a site plan on the corner for three units, each made of two or more shipping containers. The vote was 5-4.
The proposal came from Steve and Sarah Jenkins, who also own the neighboring buildings that house Elite Downtown, Antler and The Vault. They were represented by Tim Skinner, architect with the Skinner Design Group, who said the three units were planned to be used for vending, possibly a “farmer’s market space.”
Skinner also said that a middle unit was planned to be used for walk-in customers, while the end units were planned for more of a walk-up shop.
The plan shows that one unit was planned to be approximately 320 square feet, the second unit was planned to be approximately 640 square feet and the third unit was planned to be approximately 480 square feet. All units were planned to be in the green space where The Vault’s covered patio is located and were planned to face Second Street.
Commissioner Mac Arnold expressed concerns that the project would not be appropriate for the historic nature of downtown. He also said he’d prefer to see elevation views of the project before it was voted on.
Skinner said they didn’t have elevation measures. He also said that with no architectural overlay or architectural design committee, the designer can do as he sees fit if it meets building codes. He said the design would try to stay in character of downtown.
With Steve Jenkins’ investments downtown, “He’s going to be the last one who wants to put something unattractive next to it,” Skinner said.
Brian Bishop, executive director of the planning commission, said the reason the site plan came to the planning commission for approval is the unique nature—the use of shipping containers—of the request.
Bishop said there is specific language in the city zoning ordinance that allows the director of the planning commission some leeway on projects that are deemed a “significant community impact.” He said he believed it was prudent to bring it to the planning commission to review.
Central to the vote was that the planning commission earlier in the meeting approved a recommendation to city zoning laws that would require conditional uses for shipping container construction in general business districts, highway commercial districts, innovative planning districts and central business districts, of which the plot of land in question is zoned.
Because the Jenkins’ application was filed before these amendments were in place, approval of the site plan would mean that the construction could begin without any further action and the plan would not need conditional use permits.
Commissioner Dickie Johnson moved to deny the request. It was seconded by Arnold. The vote stood at 4-4 when it got to David Dixon, chair of the planning commission, who only votes to break ties. He voted to deny the request.
Dixon said after the meeting that he believed the developers would make the same request in a month and felt a pause was in order so that the site plan could be considered under the same ordinance amendments approved earlier in the meeting—amendments that developers making similar requests in the future will be subject to.
Outside the meeting, though, Steve and Sarah Jenkins said they would not submit the same site plan request for the project. Both said they have other projects that they need to focus on now.
“We’ll pivot,” Sarah Jenkins said.
She said there are weddings planned at The Vault in the spring, and to have construction occurring during those celebrations wouldn’t be fair to the wedding party and guests.
They said they weren’t angry at the outcome. “No animosity,” Steve Jenkins said.