Special Permit Denied for Proposed Uncle Bob’s Self Storage in Northfield, IL

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A special-use permit required for a proposed Uncle Bob’s Self Storage facility in Northfield, Ill., was denied recently by the village board. Three board members abstained from voting following public discussion, which included verbal sparring between developer John Mengel, president of JSM Venture Inc., and officials from The Lock Up Self Storage, which operates a facility about a mile from the proposed Uncle Bob’s site.

With half of the board abstaining, the permit request was rejected 2-1 in what officials called “a highly unusual vote,” according to the source. Mengel’s proposal would have placed the Uncle Bob’s facility at 275 Northfield Road, which currently houses a former Pioneer Press building that has been vacant since 2009. The lot is zoned for light manufacturing.

Rick Hielscher, a principal with The Lock Up, argued that Mengel’s proposal was not subject to the level of scrutiny and requirements imposed on his company before it opened its Northfield facility at 800 Frontage Road in 1995.

"We had to devote 5 percent of our building to be dedicated as a home office, and we were required to maintain jobs, so we hired 20 employees," Hielscher said. "We placed a tremendous amount of faith and risk in opening our business here, and we were held to exceptionally high standards.

"We've been here more than 20 years, have paid millions in taxes and employed 20 people full time," he added. "Why are you trying to hurt us?"

Village Manager Stacy Sigman noted the village has modified “antiquated codes” in recent years, updating some requirements dating back to the 1920s. Village board members also discussed whether the proposed storage site would be better for restaurant or retail services in the long term.

"What concerns me is, if we wanted more retail development, there would be an awfully large parcel that is no longer available," said Trustee Joan Frazier, who voted against the permit.

Robert Soudan Sr., president of The Lock Up, was pleased with the final vote, which delays for a year a possible competitor submitting another proposal for the site, the source reported. "I'm very proud of the Northfield Village Board because they did what they should have done," he said. "Our company has grown significantly since we opened in Northfield, and we played by the rules demanded."

Mengel reportedly left the meeting abruptly following the board’s vote and declined to comment, according to the source.

The family-owned Lock Up Development Group, an affiliate of BRB Development LLC, has offered self-storage services since 1976. The Lock Up currently operates self-storage facilities in eight states, including 13 in Illinois. It owns and manages more than 1.6 million square feet of self-storage.

Uncle Bob’s Self Storage is owned by Sovran Self Storage Inc., a real estate investment trust that acquires and manages self-storage facilities. The company operates more than 500 facilities in 25 states, including 13 in Illinois.

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