For example, additional buffer yards with heavy landscaping, special low-impact LED lighting, and all-brick exteriors may be very important in your community. You just have to listen to what the planning staff tells you at this point, and then try to incorporate it into your design.
Even if you don’t have a complete warm and fuzzy feeling after your preliminary meeting, as long as the staff was at least amenable to considering the proposed use, proceed to the formal request. If, however, you received a significant amount of pushback, you might want to pass on the site. A hostile reaction means your site may have struck a nerve deep within the planning and zoning department. It might be a historic neighborhood, future light-rail corridor or a high-end residential area. Any of these will require an extraordinary effort to overcome.
It just might be too expensive and restrictive for an economically viable self-storage development. It’s prudent to walk away from these types of sites. Pick a battle you at least have a chance of winning.
Step 4: The Formal Rezoning
The final step is to present your case for rezoning at the formal public hearing. Along the way, you may have had several additional meetings with the planning and zoning staff, a development review-type of meeting and even a neighborhood-area meeting. It depends on the exact rules of your municipality. These meetings will help shape your final presentation to the planning and zoning board.
You may be able to just go it alone, but the more complex the case and the more sensitive the area, the more you may need a team of experienced professionals to accomplish a successful rezoning. Your team may include a land planner, civil engineer, architect and, perhaps, a real estate attorney. Of course, you, as the developer, are the most important individual on the team.
You may be a first-time developer or a seasoned veteran, but always use some type of static display that illustrates what you want to build. Show a full-color site-plan storyboard with building layouts, adequate parking, traffic flow, storm-water detention and, of course, heavy landscaping and buffer yards. Show the look of the proposed buildings with architectural features and brick exteriors. Highlight the positives of self-storage, such as the minimal traffic impact, a quiet use—especially with climate-controlled and higher-end storage developments—and the minimal detriment to adjoining property owners. Explain that the traditional negatives—industrial look, light pollution and crime—are unfounded.
Your entire team of professionals should attend the formal hearing and be ready to answer any questions the board may have. Keep your presentation short, highlight the storyboards with your site plan and renderings, and sit quietly and patiently as the board deliberates your planned rezoning. The zoning code may allow the board to simply approve your request or may require a final hearing at a city or county meeting. Normally, this is a similar presentation on the developer’s part. Again, this depends on the local zoning code.
Do your research, and listen to the experts you’ve hired and the planning and zoning staff. If you present your case in a professional manner, more often than not, you’ll win the rezoning you need to move forward with your self-storage development.
Jeffrey B. Turnbull is the president of Kodiak Mini Storage LLC. He has been involved in the self-storage business as a developer, owner and operator for more than 18 years, and currently owns three stores in the Charlotte, N.C., market. He’s a licensed attorney in North Carolina, a licensed real estate broker in North and South Carolina, and a past president of the North Carolina Self Storage Association. He's also a frequent contributor to “Inside Self-Storage” and a speaker on various industry issues. He can be reached at email@example.com.