The Rezoning Process: Guidelines for Getting Approval on Your Self-Storage Project

By Benjamin Burkhart Comments
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Meeting with adjacent landowners is a also good first step after you’ve developed your concepts. Again, you must be prepared and understand how your new business might impact adjacent landowners and their individual interests. If it might be an eyesore, highlight and display the landscaping, lighting or architectural features you intend to include to diminish expected concerns. It’s a fine line to walk when you begin showing concepts to neighbors and taking suggestions. But when gathering support, you’ll have to at least consider others’ ideas within reason. A little extra buffer, a privacy fence, alternative lighting plans or some landscaping might go a long way.

Zoning cases are often political. I don’t like it, and maybe you won’t, but it’s a reality. If you have friends who are influential, solicit their help. The more support you can gain, the better.

Be able to present your concepts as benefits to the community. Although some older self-storage properties are ugly, they’re pretty quiet neighbors. Self-storage can provide a nice transition between residential and commercial or other uses. It meets a regular demand. Modern facilities are professional, clean and attractive. As owners, we want to run good operations that serve a need in the community. Neighbors and residents want to hear your values. It’s never too early to begin promoting your new business.

Rezoning Guideline 3: Build the Best Team

Spending a year or more in a zoning case can expend a lot of resources. Don’t waste time wading into waters that are unfamiliar. Entitlement is a project cost, and if successful, will add a lot of value to your property. To do things right the first time usually requires expert guidance. Like any other segment of the development process, the deal-maker’s most valuable skill is in managing the team toward the end goal and ensuring quality.

Use professionals to put together your rezoning applications. Engineers, architects, market consultants and attorneys should be part of your rezoning team. The design professionals should understand the rezoning process and what it requires in terms of conceptual design and development strategy. Market consultants can strengthen your rezoning application if market data shows demand for additional storage, and attorneys can navigate the legal aspects of your unique application.

Engaging the right team and being certain they can work efficiently to move your interests forward can improve your rezoning application and add value to your property. You want professionals on your team that have synergy, experience and success on similar projects. Interview your prospective team members and be sure you measure their success not by effort, but by results.

Be Realistic

Know the rules and the alternatives before taking on a rezoning application. Are there other sites that can be immediately developed but yield similar returns? Will a mixed-use or “out of the box” application aid in allowing self-storage? Is there a higher and better use for the subject property?
Self-storage isn’t always the best use for a particular site. If your rezoning case is an uphill battle, know the risks and quantify the losses you can withstand. Plan your rezoning with a solid strategy that identifies the determining factors on when to move forward and when to cut your losses.

Benjamin Burkhart is owner of BKB Properties and StorageStudy.com. He works closely with self-storage owners and real estate developers on site selection, acquisition due-diligence, market and feasibility analysis, and operations training. He can be reached at 804.598.8742; e-mail ben@storagestudy.com.

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