Self-Storage Development Debated in Columbia Falls, MT

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A zoning change for a self-storage development in Columbia Falls, Mont., was unanimously approved by the planning board on May 14 after members debated the merits of the proposal and questioned the project’s aesthetics. The Columbia Falls City County Planning Board ultimately agreed to change the zoning for the property at U.S. 2 East from residential to commercial, despite some discussion about the city’s plans for the area.

Developer Ted Nichols presented his proposal for a self-storage facility on the 1.4 acres of land, which is near the city’s east entrance. The facility would include 40 to 50 units, an office and space for boat storage. The parcel is near Oh’s Body Shop along a busy highway, according to the source. Nichols told the board the noise from the highway limited the use for the property, which he purchased in 1994.

City planning officials began addressing the area around the city’s east entrance more than a year ago, after several property owners requested zoning changes and began submitting proposals for commercial development.

In response, Eric Mulcahy, the city’s planning consultant, drafted language for a new limited-business zoning district to strike a balance between the residential areas and commercial businesses along the U.S. 2 East region. The city council approved the language in August 2013, but voted against applying it to the U.S. 2 area in general.

During the planning-board meeting, Nichols addressed the aesthetics of the facility, noting it would not have a fence. He also provided board members with photos of a facility in Missoula, Mont., which he would emulate.

After a lengthy debate, the planning board opted to amend one of the 11 conditions provided by the city staff, which would set the facility’s operating hours from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily. The board also requested the site plan include landscaping along the highway. The city council will consider the development at its June 2 meeting.

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