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Firehouse Self Storage Development Moves Forward in Longmont, CO

Update 12/22/16 – A 6-1 vote by city council members in Longmont, Colo., yesterday will allow Firehouse Self Storage to move forward with its proposed development. The vote came after eight pilots voiced their concerns about the danger of allowing the property so close to the runway, and how it might affect their safety during takeoffs and landings. Councilwoman Polly Christensen cast the dissenting vote.

Update 12/22/16 – A 6-1 vote by city council members yesterday will allow Firehouse to move forward with its proposed development. The vote came after eight pilots voiced their concerns about the danger of allowing the property so close to the runway, and how it might affect their safety during takeoffs and landings. Councilwoman Polly Christensen cast the dissenting vote.

During the meeting, pilot Ken Bickers recounted the time his home-built plane died mid-flight in 2015 and he was forced to crash in a field west of the airport. "I hurt some corn, but I was completely unhurt," he said. "If I had taken off to the east that day and the same kind of thing happened ... the lawyer says this complies with all the rules ... but I ask you, would you have gotten in that front seat of that airplane?"

The storage facility could also jeopardize the airport’s development plans and its ability to increase jet traffic, said Dan Berry, a former member of the Airport Advisory Board. "This sounds like a completely legal, completely compliant bad idea," he said. "Every one of these operators have a flight-operator center that measures the risk of coming into an airport and leaving. That risk will go up [if you approve this] no matter what, and jets may choose, most likely, to go somewhere else with a lower risk profile."

Scott Dunn, the Burton’s legal council, reminded council members the storage owners had complied with all city laws and FAA guidelines in its site plan. “Basically, when some of these things are being referred to, they're related to safety issues," said Dunn, a former member of the city’s planning and zoning committee. "They're critiquing planning and zoning for not applying criteria that simply do not exist. Denying these property owners the right to develop their property would result in a taking of the owners' property."

Prior to the vote, several council members said they were sympathetic to the pilots’ concerns, but had to follow council procedures and city code. Christensen even sought a compromise. "Does it have to have a 34-foot building? Does it have to be adjacent to the landing zone? Can't we have a meeting where everybody compromises a little bit for the safety of all instead of turning this into a legal issue?" she asked.

Councilman Brian Bagley, a defense attorney and owner of a hangar at the airport, said he would stay in accordance with the law. "If the airport hangar owners want to get together and buy that land and keep it as open space, go for it. I'd like to see it as open space. I'd love to see a huge empty area around the airport," he said. "However, we must balance that with the rights of property ownership. They have a right to build their business light industrial [development], because that's what city council approved in the 1990s."

Following the meeting, Christopher Burton, who’s also a pilot, told the source he didn’t believe the storage building would present the danger the pilots believe it will. "If the FAA came back and said, 'lower it,' we would lower it. We want to be cooperative and we want to be good neighbors with the airport. We don't want any danger to the pilots," he said, adding he’ll take off and land from the runway near the proposed building.

12/19/16 – Firehouse Self Storage is facing opposition to the 235,000-square-foot facility it’s attempting to build near Vance Brand Municipal Airport in Longmont, Colo. City council members will hear an appeal on Tuesday regarding the planning and zoning commission’s approval of the project on Airport Road. The plea was made by Dale VanZant, a member of the airport’s advisory board, who’s among several people against the project, according to the source.

The proposal includes several single-story buildings as well as one two-story building containing an office on the first floor and a manager’s residence on the second. Though Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulations prohibit buildings of higher than 31 feet, and the Firehouse building is designed at 34 feet, the FAA has said the extra height would have "no substantial adverse effect on the safe and efficient utilization of navigable airspace by aircraft,” the source reported.

Airport manager David Slayter sent a letter to the FAA in November asking it to reconsider its decision. In it, he wrote that the airport has seen an increase in jet and air-traffic pilots who use instruments rather than sight during take-off. "In a visual [or non-instrument departure], the pilot can see obstructions visually and the safety concern is not as great as for instrument departures," he wrote.

Slayter suggested the FAA might be underestimating the number of instrument departures and landings because they’re sometimes canceled. "We feel that based on what we have been experiencing with increased traffic of a certain operational type and the instrument departures [as well as arrivals], that such a penetration does classify as a hazard to air navigation," he wrote.

In his appeal, VanZant noted planes will fly over the storage site 70,000 times a year, including 40,000 takeoffs. “As shown on the proposal's plat plan, the storage units will be about 1,500 feet from the southeast end of the runway. At approach speeds for a typical flight plan, this distance is traversed in less than 15 seconds. Any problem encountered on landing will almost certainly be exacerbated by having buildings, trees and people in the potential off-airport landing that will follow."

During a Nov. 16 planning and zoning meeting, commissioner Michael Polan asked the developer if the two-story building could be moved to a different location on the parcel. The structure will be near the facility’s entrance, which was required to be off Rogers Road rather than Airport Road, city planner Ava Pecherzewski told the board.

The site will also require three feet of fill due to drainage issues, which will cause its height to increase, said Barbara Brunk, the project’s representative and manager of Resource Conservation Partners LLC. Brunk told the board in November it was too late in the process to change direction. "Could we redesign the whole site to make it work? Absolutely. But somebody asked us to go to the FAA and ask if it was OK, and they said it was. So, we're pretty far down the road on a site design to start again.”

Howard Morgan, president of the airport's Hangar Owners Association, also wrote a letter to the commission asking it to reconsider its decision. "To build something like this right off the end of a runway is stupid,” the letter stated. “A building at this location would leave pilots having a problem making it to the runway [with] zero options. If an airplane has a problem, not only would the crew and passengers be in jeopardy, but anyone in the facility would also be in jeopardy."

In a letter to the city, Lisa Doughty, the wife of a pilot, called the proposed building dangerous and likened it to “putting a building right at the edge of a highway.”

"The proposed location of this facility in the 'bail-out' zone of Vance Brand Airport poses an unnecessary safety risk to pilots, passengers and people on the ground," Doughty wrote. "I'm very afraid that this development will kill my husband or someone like him."

5/20/16 – Self-storage owners Barbi and Christopher Burton are building their second Firehouse Self Storage facility in Colorado. The new development, situated on a 42-acre parcel at the intersection of Airport Drive and Rogers Road in Longmont, Colo., will resemble a 1900s firehouse and carry the theme throughout. It’ll be nearly double the size of the couple’s existing facility in Loveland, Colo., which sits on 24 acres and offers 1,500 units, according to self-storage industry blog “The SpareFoot Storage Beat.”

The Burtons decided on the firehouse theme several years ago after learning the Larimer County Search and Rescue (LCSAR) team was in need of cash. Barbi Burton suggested rebranding their existing facility as well as donating money each month to LCSAR, a nonprofit search and rescue resource for Larimer County, Colo. The Burtons continue to offer a percentage of revenue from every storage rental to the organization.

To establish the theme, the couple purchased several old fire trucks as well as other firehouse-themed memorabilia. The Loveland site includes a fire-truck coffee bar and a waiting area with chairs made from fire hydrants. “The whole thing is an experience,” Barbi Burton said.

In addition to supporting LCSAR, the Burtons have donated free storage during natural disasters, including a September 2013 flood in Colorado. Firefighters, police and military personnel all receive rental discounts, and the business offers an “emergency price guarantee,” claiming it will beat any comparable competitor’s price by 5 percent. The company also hosts various community events throughout the year and participates in local charity drives.


TAGS: Zoning News
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