Update 5/1/18 – StorCon faces two more zoning-approval hurdles before it can move forward with its proposed 76,000-square-foot self-storage facility on Duncan Avenue. Though the Clearwater City Council approved the zoning change to commercial last month, the application will be reviewed by the 13-member Forward Pinellas Board on June 13 and by the Pinellas County Commission on July 17, according to the source.
The StorCon facility would include four buildings comprising 700 units. Though Sanderson argued an upgraded office would provide $16 million in tax revenue over the next 10 years compared to $462,000 from the storage facility, DeeDee Cornelius, president of current property owner Rental Houses LLC, argued the existing office building is just 43 percent occupied and would be too expensive to renovate, the source reported.
Offices to the west of the building site are single-tenant properties of less than 5,000 square feet, with two vacant, noted Brian Aungst Jr., an attorney representing StorCon. "This, if anything, shows you the market is not supporting an office use in this area," he told the council last month. "It certainly is not going to support the redevelopment of a class-A, 75,000-square-foot office that was developed in the early 1970s. This parcel will never be redeveloped as a large, primary employment-center office."
StorCon is under contract to purchase the property for $2.7 million from Rental Houses, contingent on approval of the zoning change.
4/16/18 – StorCon Development LLC, the development arm of Florida-based Budget Self Storage, received approval on April 4 to convert a Clearwater, Fla., office building to self-storage, despite opposition from city staff and residents. The request was made by StorCon President Jonathan Dorman, who seeks to purchase the three-story, 69,000-square-foot building at 300 S. Duncan Ave.
City council members rejected the planning and development department’s recommendation to veto the rezoning application, according to the source. The city’s community-development board also supported the project. On the other hand, city-development officials Lauren Matzke, a long-term planning manager, and Denise Sanderson, the city’s director of economic development and housing, spoke against the development, saying it’s incompatible with surrounding uses.
The council also received opposition letters from the Clearwater Neighborhoods Coalition (CNC) and Skycrest Neighborhood Association (SNA). Skycrest is adjacent to the site. “The neighborhood does not support the proposed change in land use and zoning for a storage facility,” JoAnna Siskin, SNA President, wrote in a letter dated Dec. 18. “We feel it is not an appropriate project so close to a residential area.”
In her letter, CNC President Karen Cunningham stated the project was an inappropriate fit with the character of the neighborhood. She also suggested the facility would create noise and privacy issues for residents. “Additionally, storage facilities represent ‘dead space,’ offering no potential for jobs and small businesses such as bakeries, hair salons, etc., for example, which would be more fitting with the character of this neighborhood. A storage facility is better suited for industrial areas and other less densely developed areas with lots not so narrowly spaced.”
Some community members did show support for StorCon’s plans. In a letter to the city, Jim Townsend, vice president of Townsend Constructors Inc., wrote, “I believe that this rezoning request is quite logical and brings a level of symmetry to the zoning map that it is currently lacking.”
Although Sanderson was unable to say if there’s a high demand for office space in the area, she believes the city should preserve any land that’s suitable for such buildings. “The perspective that I wish to share is that we are a fully built-out county; we are a fully built-out community. And so, it is incumbent upon us to preserve that land that is suitable for those high-intensity employment opportunities,” she said. “And by going against those adopted policy and plans that are in place, we’re conveying a message that we are willing to pursue that which is quick instead of that which is right.”
Clearwater Mayor George Cretekos questioned why the planning department valued office space over self-storage. “I want to sympathize with what the neighborhood is telling us, and I do sympathize,” he said. “I’m trying to understand why you’re thinking that this property has economic benefit to the city as office and not as storage.”
Founded in 1985, Budget Self Storage acquires, develops, manages and operates storage facilities. Its portfolio comprises six Florida locations. StorCon Development coordinates site selection, research, development and construction of new Budget facilities.