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Birmingham, AL, Officials Approve Moratorium on Self-Storage Development

Update 7/10/19 – Birmingham, Ala., officials last week approved a six-month ban on new self-storage development within the city limits. The council will also have the option to extend another 90 days, according to a source.

Following the July 2 vote, plans to convert a building at the corner of 6th Avenue S. and 24th Street S. into a three-story, climate-controlled self-storage are now on hold. The developer purchased the property 30 days ago. City officials said they’re not sure storage is the best use for the site. “A lot of our revenue comes from businesses, occupational tax, sales tax,” O'Quinn said. “That revenue goes back into paving our streets, fixing sidewalks [and] providing services.”

A moratorium isn’t necessary, the developer’s representatives told council members, as plans for the conversion are flexible and can be amended to fit the culture of the area.

Several business owners and residents who spoke at the council meeting support the ban. In a statement to TV news station WBRC, Sherry Tobia, who owns restaurant-supply store Bresco on 6th Avenue, wrote that a moratorium is the right path as the city determines zoning for its prime real estate. “We will follow what happens to zoning in the next few months. We are not anti-development; we just want appropriate development for a changing neighborhood,” she said.

Shelia Chaffin, who owns Cobb Lane Bed and Breakfast and Hassinger Daniels Mansion Bed and Breakfast, noted that a seven-story self-storage facility is already under construction in the area. “All of a sudden, there [has] been a great interest of developers to start making them, and the trouble is where they are proposing to do it, it’s not where you’d want them to be,” Chaffin said. “The master plan has not come through to organize where different land uses should go. It also means certain zoning categories are outdated.”


6/27/19 Officials in Birmingham, Ala., are considering a one-year moratorium on self-storage development in its M-2 and I-2 districts, particularly those in the city’s central business district. The city council discussed a potential ban during a meeting on Tuesday, after a recent upturn in applications for downtown projects. It scheduled a public hearing for July 2 to discuss the issue.

“We have been made aware of multiple downtown parcels where the property owners are considering putting self-storage facilities, and that’s something that is particularly problematic because we’re currently in the process of reviewing land use in the downtown area,” councilmember Darrell O’Quinn, who represents the downtown area, said during the meeting.

Some officials believe self-storage facilities take up too much real estate for the amount of employment and tax revenue they generate. Neigborhoods being scrutinized for land use include Central City, Druid Hills, Fountain Heights, Glen Iris and Southside, a source reported.

If passed, the moratorium would freeze all applications for self-storage projects including expansions of existing facilities. However, it would likely be limited in scope to only specific areas within Birmingham and not the entire city. Other than a freeze on expansions, existing self-storage businesses would be unaffected, O’Quinn told a source.

If enacted, the ban would take immediate effect while the city lays out a plan for how future developments can meet consumer demand.

The move could affect future storage projects that repurpose unused buildings, such as the one completed in April by Brent Fields, co-owner of News Properties LLC. Fields converted the former production building for “The Birmingham News” into 55,000 square feet of self-storage. The downtown property at 2200 4th Ave. N. had been empty since 2017. The demand study conducted for the project indicated the area was undersupplied for self-storage, Fields told news station WVTM.

“I don’t think anybody is opposed to self-storage facilities, but we need to consider the best place for those types of facilities,” O’Quinn said. “Downtown is really the economic generator for the entire metro area, and downtowns thrive when there is vibrancy, density and lots of people coming to work at jobs and contributing to the restaurants and other small businesses in the area.”

O’Quinn favors excluding self-storage from “high economic impact” areas, such as districts with entertainment and restaurants, according to a source. He was supported by councilmember Steven Hoyt, who chairs the planning and zoning committee. “I believe that if we have property downtown, we need to maximize its use and not tie it up to a point where it’s not creating jobs and opportunities,” Hoyt told the council.

Self-storage is currently lumped in with shipping/receiving and warehousing uses as part of Commercial Use Group 3 in the city’s zoning ordinance. Other Group 3 business uses include animal hospitals, auto repair shops and broadcasting stations, among others.

Sources:
AL.com, Ordinance Would Stop Licenses for New Birmingham Self-Storage for Year
Birmingham Times, City to Consider Halt on Self-Storage Facilities Downtown
City of Birmingham, Zoning Ordinance
WVTM 13, Birmingham Pushing Temporary Self-Storage Moratorium
WBRC, B’ham City Council Imposes Temporary Moratorium on New Self-Storage Facilities

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