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Self-Storage Rezoning Request Denied in Birmingham, AL, After Local Opposition

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The Shelby County Planning Commission in Birmingham, Ala., this week unanimously denied a rezoning request for a self-storage proposal following opposition from officials and residents. Brent Fields of Eight18 Properties submitted the request to rezone a 6-acre property on the northwest corner of Hillandell Drive and Valleydale Road from general business and office and institutional district (B-1 and O-I) to general business district (B-2).

Fields’ development would have comprised three self-storage structures, including a two-story, 47,000-square-foot, climate-controlled building containing 600 units, and two traditional storage buildings containing a total of 100 drive-up units. Access would have been gated, with outdoor vehicle storage prohibited, according to Sharman Brooks, the county’s senior planner.

Brooks, who presented the request and staff recommendations to the commission, noted the property was rezoned to B-1 and O-I in 1990, when the former owner proposed a development that included businesses near the road with office buildings in the back. However, the plan never came to fruition, she said.

A self-storage facility wouldn’t be “incompatible” with nearby properties, but would be different from the largely residential area, Brooks said. Although it would generate traffic similar to that of an office building, a B-2 zoning would allow for development that could bring more traffic on the already-congested Valleydale Road. Other B-2 uses include animal hospital or clinic, frozen-food locker, public garage, retail store, shopping center, or used-car lot, according to the source.

The county staff recommended creating a special district that would limit the rezoning to self-storage only rather than others uses allowed under the B-2 zoning. However, Fields said there wouldn’t be enough time to gather the necessary plans for that type of application, Brooks said.

Planning commissioners Bob Land and Jim Davis voiced their concerns about self-storage being the only B-2 use not incompatible with the surrounding area. In addition, rezoning the land to B-2 could open the site to undesirable developments, according to the source.

Fields told the commission his only plan for the property was to build a self-storage facility. He also said the tenant mix “definitely fits” a residential area. The facility’s building materials would have a “residential aesthetic,” said Chuck Penuel, the architect on the project. The climate-controlled building would have an appearance similar to that of an office building.

Nearly 70 people attended the Oct. 3 meeting to voice their concerns about the rezoning. They cited the potential noise for large trucks entering the facility, a drop in property values, the lack of a buffer to surrounding properties, and the effects the facility would have on water runoff and area wildlife.

A letter from Shelby County Commissioner Mike Vest, who was unable to attend the meeting, was also read. “Residents surrounding this aforementioned property reached out to me and asked for my assistance in their concern,” the letter stated. “As their commissioner and neighbor, I support their efforts in the opposition to the zoning-change request.”

Branscomb Beavers, who represented the Havenwood Park Homeowners’ Association, told commission members the community opposed the B-2 rezoning as well as the self-storage development. “Sure, it’s a class-A facility, but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s a storage facility,” said Beavers, who asked residents who opposed the plan to stand, and the majority did, the source reported.

Tom Crawford, who owns property adjacent to the site, spoke in favor of the rezoning. He said self-storage would be preferable to the fruit stand or other businesses currently operating on the lot.

Following an hour-long discussion, Planning Commission Chairman Ken Wilder said it wasn’t possible to add special-district zoning due to lack of a proper application. He also stated tabling the request would be ineffective. “What we’ve got is a B-2 [rezoning] up or down,” he said. “I don’t think the problem is with the facility because I’ve seen facilities like this in Atlanta and Dallas and [in] very, very nice neighborhoods, and they actually add to the area. I think the facility is nice. I think it’s good. But we have no guarantees that’s what they’ll do. If somebody came in and offered you $1 million tomorrow after we approve this, you might put it in the bank tomorrow and say, ‘Bye.’”

Sources:

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