Update 2/6/15 – Despite the threat of a lawsuit, city council members in Rockville, Md., passed a zoning text amendment (ZTA) this week that could prevent Siena Corp. from building an ezStorage self-storage facility at 1175 Taft St. The council voted 3-2 in favor of the ZTA, which prohibits self-storage facilities from being built within 250 feet of a public school in certain parts of Rockville unless the city provides an exemption. The distance between the ezStorage property and Maryvale Elementary School is within the prohibited distance.
Siena Corp. attorney Robert Dalrymple has previously said the company was prepared to pursue legal action if the ZTA was approved. After the vote, Dalrymple said Siena would examine its options. “We’re not done,” he told the source.
A motion to create a work group involving Siena and local residents to resolve concerns about the storage facility was voted down 3-2.
1/7/15 – City Council members in Rockville, Md., continued to discuss a proposed zoning text amendment (ZTA) this week that would prevent ezStorage Corp. from building a 110,000-square-foot self-storage facility at 1175 Taft St. The council voted 3-2 to direct city staff to bring the issue back for formal introduction on Jan. 12, with a vote scheduled at a later date.
The ZTA would bar self-storage developments within 250 feet of public school property in four zone types. The distance between the ezStorage property and Maryvale Elementary School is within the prohibited distance.
Siena Corp. attorney Robert Dalrymple confirmed to the source after the council discussion that the ezStorage parent company would “absolutely” pursue legal action if the ZTA is approved. Despite the threat of a lawsuit, the amendment appears to have the support of Mayor Bridget Donnell Newton and councilmembers Beryl Feinberg, who introduced the amendment, and Virginia Onley.
The trio voted in favor of Monday’s motion and successfully voted down two motions from councilmember Tom Moore that were designed to protect against legal action. One proposal would have grandfathered the Siena-owned property against any zoning change that may be passed, while the other would have set aside $3 million in the city’s fiscal 2016 budget to help cover potential legal expenses, the source reported. Moore was joined by councilmember Julie Palakovich Carr in supporting his two amendments and in voting against the motion to have staff introduce the ZTA next week.
12/19/14 – City Council members in Rockville, Md., discussed a proposed zoning text amendment (ZTA) this week that would prevent ezStorage Corp. from building a four-story self-storage facility at 1175 Taft St. but took no action. The ZTA would bar self-storage developments within 250 feet of a school. The distance between the ezStorage property and Maryvale Elementary School is within the prohibited distance, according to the source.
The ZTA was proposed by Councilmember Beryl Feinberg before the city planning commission approved the project last month. It’s controversial because Maryvale Elementary is the only Montgomery County Public School within 250 feet of a light-industrial zone. Planning commissioners have said the ZTA appears to be a case of “spot zoning” against a particular project.
Representatives from ezStorage parent company Siena Corp. have threatened legal action against the city if officials target the site for restrictions. “Passing a ZTA to take the legs out from underneath a corporate citizen who purchased property … who relied upon action of the city … to then terminate that use in the middle of the entitlement process will not be viewed favorably by the business community,” warned Siena attorney Robert Dalrymple.
Many of the East Rockville residents who have opposed the storage development are in favor of the ZTA, citing the danger of having moving trucks with inexperienced drivers behind the wheel near school crossings. “As parents and residents, we hope this to be the first of several text amendments to help protect children near their schools, homes and parks,” resident Patrick Schoof said during the public hearing. “This zoning text amendment even helps to meet the spirit and language of the Rockville Master Plan, and those who are not wise enough to think so or tell you so are not here to represent the residents who live here.”
Feinberg defended the zoning amendment during the hearing, saying it could be used in the future to protect schools against other uses. She also said she’d be willing to increase the buffer distance.
Mayor Bridget Newton also defended the ZTA against the notion that it’s spot zoning and said it aligns with Rockville’s master plan. “I will tell you it is targeted specifically to protecting our schools, to protecting our children,” she said. “It’s not targeted to this particular applicant.”
During the public hearing, community activist Drew Powell asked councilmember Tom Moore to recuse himself from the ezStorage application because of a $100 campaign contribution he received from Dalrymple. However, the Rockville code that addresses gifts that could cause a conflict of interest exempts political contributions, the source reported.
11/19/14 – The Rockville, Md., Planning Commission has re-approved a four-story self-storage development proposed by ezStorage Corp., an operator with 45 facilities throughout Maryland and Virginia. The commission met on Nov. 12 to reconsider two aspects of the application for 1175 Taft St. It originally approved the project on Sept. 10, according to the source.
Planners were called to re-examine the application after learning the developer had notified Rockville Housing Enterprises, the landlord of public-housing development David Scull Courts, of the Sept. 10 meeting, but not its residents. They also discussed whether a resident manager was in conflict with the Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance, a provision enacted to ensure public buildings, such as schools, have enough space to accommodate new residents, the source reported.
The commission voted to allow ezStorage to operate without a resident manager until there was enough school capacity to allow another housing unit. Nearby Maryvale Elementary School is set to expand by 2019, according to the public school Capital Improvement Program.
Representatives from ezStorage parent company Siena Corp. told the commission the facility manager doesn’t have children and said the situation wouldn’t violate anti-discrimination laws, but the majority of commissioners didn’t feel comfortable putting that condition on the application, the source reported.
Along with its approval, the commission added contingencies requiring ezStorage to widen the sidewalks and erect a fence around the front of the property.
The storage project has been approved twice, despite ongoing opposition from residents and parents of children who attend the elementary school, which is about two blocks away. Among community concerns are an increase in traffic, the safety of children walking to and from school-bus stops near the property, and the potential for hazardous materials being stored at the facility.
“We have tried to have an open dialogue with the community since [we] purchased this property,” Siena attorney Robert Dalrymple told the commission. “We requested meetings for the very reason of trying to determine if there were items that could be addressed, and frankly, we haven’t received any requests for adjustments other than to go away.”
The project could face an uphill battle with the Rockville City Council for final approval. Councilmember Beryl Feinberg recently proposed a zoning amendment that would prohibit self-storage facilities within 250 feet of a school. The city will hold a public hearing to discuss the amendment on Dec. 15, according to the source.
Last month, Mayor Bridget Newton and the council approved a feasibility study to look into establishing a transition/mixed-use zone in East Rockville. Such a zone would prevent residential zones from bordering industrial zones, the source reported.
During the same council meeting, Feinberg made a motion for a moratorium on building that would have applied to the ezStorage project, but she withdrew it following a closed session after legal advice from the city attorney. Siena representatives threatened legal action if the council was to make a similar motion again, the source reported.
Feinberg and Newton attended the commission meeting.
Based in Columbia, Md., and founded in 1987, ezStorage operates 39 self-storage facilities in Maryland and another six in Virginia.