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Queens, NY, Restricts Self-Storage From Industrial Districts


Update 6/26/17 – Queen’s Community Board 5 (CB5) voted unanimously last Wednesday in favor of the planning department’s proposal. CB5 became the first community board to formally endorse the zoning change that will require self-storage developers to seek a special permit before building in the borough’s IBZs, according to the source.

Tom Smith, an agency liaison, indicated the zoning requirement would benefit the Maspeth and Ridgewood IBZs. “For the Maspeth IBZ, that is very much a thriving industrial area,” Smith said during the meeting. “The Ridgewood IBZ has seen a pretty decent uptick in industrial uses that need to be protected.”

CB5’s Sanchez had earlier indicated the board would likely support the measure.

6/16/17 – The Queens, N.Y., Borough Board voted 36-0 on Wednesday in favor of a zoning text amendment that will require a special permit for any new self-storage developments in the borough’s industrial business zones (IBZs). The proposal was made by the city’s planning department to preserve IBZs for industrial uses that produce more jobs, according to a source.

The permit requirement is in line with Mayor Bill de Blasio’s larger Industrial Action Plan, which seeks to limit self-storage development in IBZs across New York City. Under the Queens amendment, developers will be required to go through a two-year application process, which includes a land-use review procedure. Currently, self-storage is an “as of right” use in the borough’s IBZs, a source reported.

Special permits would be granted for self-storage projects based on a series of criteria that isn’t favorable for other uses. Those include building configuration and lot size, need for environmental remediation, proximity to truck routes, and street access. Storage facilities already operating in IBZs will be able to remain open and expand within their original zoning lot.

Approximately one-quarter of the 240 storage facilities citywide are in IBZs. Of the 63 facilities in Queens, 25 are in IBZs, while 26 are in M districts and two operate in C8 districts. In addition, 10 are legal, nonconforming uses because they were grandfathered when earlier zoning changes were implemented. Of four self-storage projects that are in the pre-construction phase, one is in an IBZ, according to a source.

The relatively small percentage of storage facilities in IBZs prompted borough president Melinda Katz to question the need for the special-permit process. “I marvel at the fact that we spend so much time and resources—which is good, I guess, because we want things placed that are proper—when just two are done a year,” she said during the meeting.

Community Board 7 Chairman Gene Kelty also questioned the process.

Walter Sanchez, chair of the Community Board 5 Land Use Committee, supported the amendment’s purpose of preserving areas for industrial and manufacturing purposes, noting the special permit would still allow self-storage in IBZs, just with tighter restrictions. “All we’re trying to do here with this is: one, lay a little bit of ground work for not having certain uses in IBZs,” he said. “In an industrial area, just come and ask us, and go through the procedure [to] find out what the community thinks, that’s all.”

The special-permit jurisdiction will fall under the planning department, a source reported. The department first proposed the amendment in March.


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