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The Opening Hurdles: 3 Critical Steps in New Self-Storage Development

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There are many steps to building a new self-storage facility, but there are three critical ones every developer must understand and clear at the beginning of the process. Learn what they are and what to expect.

Reprinted with permission from BETCO Inc.

Developing a self-storage facility comes with a long list of to-dos, obstacles and, of course, rewards. This article examines three essential steps each owner or builder must understand and clear when embarking on a new project.

1. The Land Survey

First, it’s critical to examine the land you’ve chosen. A survey confirms basic and material information about the property. It not only depicts discrepancies between the actual use of the land and the recorded legal description, it shows the relationship of the property to adjoining parcels as well as the location of physical improvements. This includes not just buildings but also landscaping, parking, utilities, etc., in relation to the boundaries. The land survey can also bring to light any zoning issues, which brings us to the next step.

2. The Zoning Process

Zoning is the legislative process for dividing land into zones for different uses. These laws regulate the use of land and the kinds of structures that can be built upon it, whether residential or industrial (self-storage is categorized as the latter). They’re intended to protect peoples’ health, safety and general welfare in relation to land use.

To encounter discrepancies in zoning is common when dealing with any real estate project. When meeting with local government officials to get your zoning approved, it’s important to have your building plan ready so can answer any questions they might have. Most self-storage facilities get the green light, but not before enduring a few rounds of rebuttals from town decision-makers.

Below are examples of the kinds of zoning regulations that can be roadblocks for self-storage development. Keeping these in mind in the early stages can make for an easier approvals process.

  • No self-storage can be located within three miles of another storage facility.
  • The maximum property coverage of storage buildings and pavement is 50 percent.
  • Self-storage can only be located in the industrial park zone.
  • Only one building is permitted on a single parcel.
  • No development or restricted development is permitted within 150 feet of wetlands.
  • One parking space is required per 1,000 square feet of building.
  • Onsite drainage detention is required.

3. Schematic Drawings and Estimating

With the land survey complete and zoning approved, your architect can provide schematic drawings, upon which your developer will create an estimate of project costs. If in-house service is available, your developer may also provide drawings upon request.

For the building estimate to be as accurate as possible, you’ll want to provide your chosen color for the doors, hallway systems, etc., as well as the system height, mesh or burglar bar, and kick plates. You’ll also determine if your facility will have swing or roll-up doors, or a mix. Sometimes your architect can provide these answers and serve as a middleman. If not, you’ll need to relay that information directly to the developer.

After the drawings and additional details are provided, you’ll get an estimate. Once you approve it, a letter of intent will be initiated, and you’ll sign. Materials can then be ordered. Whether you hire a separate general contractor or use the developer’s, the builder will contact that person to gauge when he’ll be ready to receive materials on site. A deadline will be set.

Completion of the above key steps means your self-storage project can truly begin. Depending on your developer’s abilities and limitations, you may need to outsource various building tasks from this point. Keep in mind that for the most seamless outcome, it’s often better to have fewer cooks in the kitchen!

Emily Hitchcock is the marketing projects and events manager for BETCO Inc., a provider of self-storage structures and turnkey building solutions. To reach her, call 704.318.2460; email [email protected].

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