Update 7/31/13 – The Wollongong City Council recently voted 9-1 in favor of a special-use zoning change that should enable Kennards Self Storage of Australia to build a proposed storage facility within the Kemblawarra Business Park. The council approved self-storage as a permissible light-industrial use within the heavy-industrial zoned area.
The decision is another reversal by the council, which voted 7-6 in May to investigate other options amid strong opposition to the zoning proposal from heavy industrial businesses. City staff ultimately recommended the council approve the Kennards request, believing it to be “the best option to facilitate the development of self-storage units at 249 Shellharbour Road, Port Kembla, while protecting valuable heavy industrial-zoned land for the long term,” according to city documents.
“We think this is the right thing and the most logical thing the council should do, although selfishly we wouldn't mind which option they chose as long as it allowed self-storage," Sam Kennard, managing director for Kennards Self Storage, said prior to the council’s decision.
Update 5/28/13 – Sam Kennard, managing director for Kennards Self Storage, urged the Wollongong City Council yesterday to block a rescission motion that could curtail progress on the company’s proposed new facility. Although some council members had been supportive of the self-storage project, officials voted 7-6 to investigate other options amid strong opposition from heavy industrial businesses.
Kennard argued the self-storage facility could be beneficial to local businesses, citing that occupancy from businesses in the company’s existing locations comprises about 37 percent of rented space.
"The future of the Illawarra may not be in heavy industry ... Apple didn't start because land was a particular zoning," he said. "Bill Gates actually started in a garage, and I'm going to build 700 of them."
Kennard also threatened to sell the property as smaller parcels if the self-storage project is not approved.
Council member Michelle Blicavs said she feared the delay would eventually lead to a full rejection. “My concern is that here is another opportunity of investment in our city that we are turning away, and I'm just concerned we're seeing a pattern,” she said. “Development opportunities come up, and in some cases it warrants a small change to the zoning. Things change and we need to be versatile and flexible enough to determine when a change is valid.”
Kennards Self Storage of Australia is nearing a zoning victory in the city of Wollongong that would enable the company to build a storage facility in an area zoned for heavy industrial use. Kennards purchased land in the Kemblawarra Industrial Precinct and Business Park in 2010 but has been unable to build a facility there, thanks to a zoning change three years ago that drew a distinction between warehouses and self-storage units.
The Wollongong City Council this week agreed to forward a planning proposal to approve self-storage use in IN3 Heavy Industrial zoned areas to the New South Wales Department of Planning and Infrastructure. The council’s decision is opposed by a consortium of industrial operators who believe allowing self-storage into heavy industrial areas could inhibit future employment growth, since self-storage facilities typically do not require a large staff.
The council did not agree that self-storage would likely impact available land for heavy industrial operators, pointing out that three storage facilities already operate in heavy industrial areas in nearby Unanderra.
Kennards Self Storage operates 74 locations in Australia and New Zealand.