A group of local investors who recently purchased the former bowling alley on South Stewart Street in downtown Sonora are moving ahead with plans to convert the building into a self-storage business.

The Sonora Planning Commission endorsed a change to the city’s zoning laws on Monday that could help pave the way for such business by allowing them in commercial and general commercial zoning districts with a conditional use permit.

Self-storage facilities would be allowed in limited manufacturing zoning districts without the need for a conditional use permit under the proposed changes.

Paula Daneluk, the city’s planning consultant, explained that the proposed changes would next to go to the Sonora City Council for approval at two separate public hearings.

The commission is scheduled to consider approving a conditional use permit for converting the alley into self-storage units at its next meeting on March 11, which wouldn’t have to be subsequently approved by the council unless someone appealed the decision.

“What is the idea of having a storage area to store items other than in your house or your garage?” Commissioner John Richardson asked. “Why are you getting this, because you have too many things you can’t store, is that what it is?”

Daneluk explained that a typical reason for getting self-storage is for people who don’t have places in their home to store items, such as an attic or garage.

Brian Wahlbrink, Joe Pluim, Julie Yorston and Lee Moyle were all present for the hearing that began at 5:30 p.m. Monday in City Hall. They are partners in the company PWM Properties that recently purchased the former Sonora Family Bowl building for $375,000.

Wahlbrink said he spoke to about 10 to 12 people who were supportive of the self-storage idea after an article was published on Jan. 12 in The Union Democrat detailing their plans for the alley.

Though the partners are mainly focused on mini-storage at this point, Wahlbrink said they are still open to hearing other ideas people have for the facility.

Pluim said they are working on plans to obtain building permits in anticipation of getting the needed change to the city’s zoning laws and a conditional use permit.

Many people have talked about doing something with the bowling alley since it shut down in 2010 after 50 years in business. The building has sat vacant since that time, mainly due to issues related to building codes and parking that put a halt to other plans.

The estimated total occupancy of the 10,000-square-foot building is roughly 300, which would likely require more than $100,000 in parking fees alone for a business like a restaurant, bar or dance club.

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