The Worcester, Mass., City Council approved a zoning amendment last week that’ll limit new self-storage development in the city. The new code puts self-storage in its own use category and prohibits it in manufacturing zones. The 8-3 vote came after council members debated the rights of landowners to sell their properties vs. the city’s need to preserve space for potential manufacturers, according to the source.
Prior to the amendment, self-storage was permitted by right in all manufacturing districts. The city has allowed more than 700,000 square feet of storage to be built across six facilities since 2016.
Councilmembers will have the option to issue special-use permits in four business-general zoning areas and all three limited-manufacturing areas, according to Peter Dunn, the city's chief economic development officer. In addition, any storage development in a commercial corridor overlay district will be required to include more “active uses” and be subject to size and ground-floor restrictions, he said.
George Russell, who represents district three, opposed the amendment, noting that though storage businesses don’t create many jobs, they do generate property taxes. He said he understands the rationale for the amendment, but to completely prohibit self-storage in manufacturing zones isn’t necessary. “I'm suggesting there should be an opportunity for folks to go to the zoning board to make their case,” Russell said. “People who own property deserve to have options to pay their taxes and make a living.”
Russel entered a motion to adjust the amendment and allow storage development by special permit in certain zones rather than banning it outright. Councilmembers Khrystian King and Sarai Rivera supported his proposal. King also expressed concern about the city’s plans for vacant manufacturing facilities and said the zoning amendment looked like “over-government.” The remaining councilmembers were in favor of the amendment as written.
Councilmember Kathleen M. Toomey commented on the city’s $20 million installation of sewer service along U.S. Route 20. She said a self-storage facility, one of the first developments in the area, wasn’t the “highest and best use” of the property. Mayor Joseph M. Petty noted that manufacturers seeking buildable sites in the city are “scrambling for space.” City manager Edward M. Augustus Jr. discussed one company, Prime Metals, that struggled to find a good site, then moved to Sutton, Mass., taking its 300 jobs.
To fill these locations with manufactures, the city might need to be patient, Petty said. As an example of not using the best use for a property, he pointed to a building that was converted a few years ago to a U-Haul self-storage facility. He proposed the city works with landowners to find better uses for their parcels rather than accept any development project that comes along.
Telegram & Gazette, Council Approves Amendment to Rein in Self-Storage Facilities