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Debate Continues on Savannah, GA, Self-Storage Project as Council Decision Looms


Update 4/27/17 – The Savannah City Council is expected to make its decision tonight on the zoning-change petition that would provide a path for a controversial self-storage facility on Limerick Street. Residents continue to object primarily to the proposed building’s height at 56 feet, which is twice the height of a nearby Whole Foods grocery store and much taller than the single-story businesses and residents that are in the area, according to the source. Other key concerns are traffic congestion and emergency-vehicle access, since the street dead-ends at the building site.

To show his opposition to the project, neighboring resident Stewart Dohrman has erected a 55-foot-high sign in a tree next to his house demonstrating the height of the proposed facility. “Everyone here knows this is zoned for some type of commercial development. That’s not necessarily the problem,” he told the source. “The problem is the zoning change they’re requesting would allow not only a self-storage facility, but other types of what are called ‘deleterious uses,’ including adult entertainment and storage of huge motor coaches.”

Alderman Julian Miller, who represents an adjacent district, has indicated he’ll vote against the zoning change. “The real issue is all kinds of development is coming to that corridor, regardless of whether this project goes through or not,” he told the source. “There needs to be a more comprehensive overall plan to deal with it.”

4/13/17 – Savannah officials and residents continue to debate the merits of a zoning-change petition submitted on behalf of 31 North Real Estate Investors, which would provide a path for a five-story self-storage facility on Limerick Street. The developer’s most recent application seeks entirely new zoning, which is expected to be voted on by the city council on April 27. Despite the lack of support in previous related votes from the zoning board of appeals and the Metropolitan Planning Commission, the council appears to favor the plan, according to the source.

Alderman John Hall is among the councilmembers who plan to approve the zoning change. “[The self-storage facility] would bring a needed service to this area more so than anything else; and if there are a dozen people or a half-dozen people employed at this facility, that’s more people working,” Hall told the source.

Resident Michael Hough also supports the project. “I think the point that this is private property is the big issue,” he said. “It’s all about letting a property owner do what they want as long as they are within the guidelines.”

Palumbo continues to lead residential opposition to the plan. His neighborhood group, Smart Growth Savannah, has started a GoFundMe campaign to raise $3,500 to hire an attorney to fight the development, the source reported. As of April 12, the campaign had raised more than $1,100.

11/28/16 – The Metropolitan Planning Commission last week denied the zoning-change petition submitted on behalf of 31 North Real Estate Investors, which would have provided a path for a self-storage facility on Limerick Street. The commission voted 10-3 against the request, agreeing with a new staff report, which indicated the proposed district could enable developments inconsistent with the comprehensive land plan, such as student dormitories or adult-entertainment businesses, according to the source.

Palumbo was among several residents to speak against the zoning petition and urged the commission to note that no community members had spoken in favor of the self-storage project. However, McCorkle presented three letters of support from residents that he said live closest to the site. He argued most residential opposition had come from people who live outside the neighborhood. “It’s not a towering inferno as it has been depicted in some places,” he told the commission.

The developers can still appeal the decision in front of the Savannah City Council.

In a related move, the commission approved a separate request filed by McCorkle to amend the Tri-Centennial Comprehensive Plan Future Land Use Map. The update will change the future land-use category from General-Residential to Commercial-Suburban, the source reported.

11/2/16 – After more than an hour of discussion and public comment, the Metropolitan Planning Commission postponed its vote yesterday on the zoning-change petition submitted on behalf of 31 North Real Estate Investors. The commission voted 7-3 to delay its decision on the self-storage plan to allow further investigation on how the zoning change would affect other districts, according to the source. It will be reviewed again on Nov. 22.

About a dozen community members in opposition to the zoning change and Limerick Street storage project attended the meeting, with six providing public comment. The board also received seven letters of opposition prior to the meeting, the source reported.

Commission staff has recommended the board approve the zoning change, noting in its findings that the “collector street or greater” classification specifically targeted by the change permit was established without discussion or explanation, according to the source. The city began setting zoning restrictions in relation to self-storage in the 1990s.

11/1/16 – A new petition filed on behalf of 31 North Real Estate Investors seeks to amend the Savannah Zoning Ordinance by removing the “collector street or greater” requirement from being applied to all future self-storage developments. The Metropolitan Planning Commission staff has recommended the board approve the petition. If the board follows the recommendation at its meeting tonight, the zoning change would allow self-storage developers to forego asking for the specific variance and effectively clear a path for the Limerick Street project to move forward, the source reported.

Residential opposition is expected to be vocal again during tonight’s meeting. “I believe that the opinion voiced by residents in March of this year still command the respect of our development process,” Palumbo said. “Amending our zoning code for a solitary developer fails to meet the needs of the public or future investors in our community.”

The latest petition was filed on behalf of the investor group by attorney Phillip McCorkle.

8/29/16 – A self-storage proposal from developer 31 North Real Estate Investors has been rejected for the second time by the Savannah Zoning Board of Appeals after it removed a variance request from its agenda last week. Although the city’s zoning administrator allowed the petition for a street-classification variance to be heard because it differed from the developer’s requests rejected in March, the board refused to discuss the matter, according to the source. Petitioners are typically required to wait at least 12 months before resubmitting requests.

“If you come and request a variance of some type, you can’t come back and ask for the same thing unless you wait 12 months,” board chairman Thomas Branch said during the meeting.

Development plans for the proposed self-storage facility at 2803 Limerick Street were unchanged from March, the source reported.

More than a dozen residents submitted letters in opposition to the variance, similar to earlier protests by the community.

3/28/16 – Self-storage developer 31 North Real Estate Investors LLC was denied two variances this week for a proposed project in Savannah, Ga. The metropolitan planning commission zoning board of appeals effectively ended the project by rejecting a zoning variance for Limerick Street as well as a variance to reduce the buffer surrounding the edge of the property, according to the source.

The facility would have been built behind the Whole Foods shopping center on Victory Drive. It was opposed by residents, including members of Preserve Savannah, a neighborhood group who argued a self-storage facility didn’t fit the character of the area despite other commercial developments. A particular sticking point was the 50-foot height of the proposed building, the source reported.

“This was a huge win for the community today,” Nick Palumbo, founder of Preserve Savannah, told the source.

Jay Maupin represented the developer during the meeting and argued the storage facility wouldn’t negatively impact the area, in part because the neighborhood is already commercialized.

Part of the residential opposition to the project is an ongoing fight to reduce overdevelopment in the area, according to resident Rob Hessler. “This is a very small victory in the much larger battle against overdevelopment,” he told the source.

The same developer would have to wait one year before resubmitting its variance requests if it wants to continue the self-storage project at the proposed site, the source reported.


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