Update 12/15/20 – The Bainbridge Island City Council voted unanimously last week to ban new self-storage development indefinitely, citing environmental concerns as well as the limited space zoned for industrial uses and the number of existing facilities in the area as its primary reasons. Storage was previously permitted in districts zoned as business/industrial and neighborhood service center. The Dec. 8 measure removes those areas as options for new projects but does allow existing operations to expand, according to a source.
The ban shuts down plans by Urban Storage to build a 70,000-square-foot facility on a 4.8-acre wooded property. A letter sent to the Bainbridge Island Planning Commission last month from project representative Beth Bryson Morgan stated the city council’s move “has only ever been a thinly veiled attempt to prevent Urban’s Day Road self-storage project.”
“Enacting this ordinance now, without providing an exemption for the Day Road project, is likely to result in protracted litigation and significant damages to Urban Bainbridge,” Bryson Morgan wrote. “Based on the information the city has collected during its investigations, there is also a significant need for self-storage in this island community, and there will be consequences for taking this drastic action.”
Garth Schlemlein, an attorney for Urban, filed a form with the city in June claiming $9.3 million in damages due to the city’s moratorium. “As a result, the claimant has incurred substantial damages including, but not limited to the sums paid for acquisition of the property; real property taxes paid over the years; architectural, engineering and related fees; as well as lost-opportunity costs.”
Deets argued against using the land for a business that doesn’t provide many jobs. “If we’re allowing an area to be clear-cut or have natural landscaping taken away for business use, what is the tradeoff here? What are we getting in return, we the community?” he asked. “If we’re getting a building site that really has very limited use and very low job creation, I don’t see that as a very good return. It’s a poor use of land.”
Councilmember Rasham Nassar claimed there’s a movement in the area toward less personal consumption, resulting in a lower need for individual storage space, and argued instead for a “library of things” concept. “If we’re going to make space to store things, how can we make space for the community to store things we can collectively share and use [so] that we don’t have to buy them? It reduces carbon emissions. It reduces production and makes island living more affordable, and eliminates the need to purchase excess storage that [residents] don’t originally and regularly use,” he said.
There are currently eight self-storage facilities on the island. The per-capita measure shows there’s about 9 square feet of storage per resident, compared to the national average of 5.4 square feet, according to city staff. A city-conducted survey revealed the existing facilities have an average vacancy rate of about 5 percent.
12/6/19 –The Bainbridge Island, Wash., City Council unexpectedly enacted a six-month moratorium on self-storage development applications on Nov. 26. The ban will allow officials to consider regulations for self-storage and make long-term decisions regarding development within its business/industrial and neighborhood-center zoning districts, according to the source.
Though the moratorium wasn’t part of the council’s formal agenda, it voted 5-2 in favor of the stay after councilmember Joe Deets made a motion for it. Deets indicated his motivation was to have “an in-depth discussion on the long-term economic development we want,” and told fellow councilors he’d heard from several constituents promoting the storage ban. “[Self-storage facilities] really are not much of an economic driver; they don’t hire very many people,” he said.
The ban affects at least one application already in the pipeline. Seattle-based Urban Storage, which operates 51 locations in the state, including two in Bainbridge, was in the pre-application phase on a three-building project proposed for Day Road. Though Deets indicated the Urban project brought self-storage development to the forefront, he didn’t make the motion to single out the operator. “It’s not like we’re against this particular project,” he said. “That’s much too narrow of a focus.”
Councilmembers Sarah Blossom and Matthew Tirman voted against the measure. “I don’t really like this kind of reactionary behavior,” Blossom said. “Our code allows something; someone invested in land, invested time and money in a plan; works their way through the city process; we find out; we don’t like it, so we enact a moratorium.”
The city will next schedule a public hearing, followed by a work plan for the moratorium, the source reported.