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Worcester, MA, Officials Seek to Limit Self-Storage Projects

Update 11/4/20 – The Worcester Planning Board voted unanimously on Oct. 28 to recommend the self-storage zoning amendment to the city council. Stephen Rolle, an assistant chief development officer for the city, told planners the measure will help officials separate self-storage projects from other types of storage uses and fit developments to appropriate sites, according to the source.

In addition to requiring special permits in some zones, the amendment would create provisions for any self-storage project proposed for the Commercial Corridors Overlay District. In that area, developments would have to co-locate with other, more-active uses as well as adhere to size limitations and ground-floor restrictions, the source reported. The amendment also changes parking requirements to be more in line with the low-traffic volume at self-storage sites.

“These are really unique facilities as far as their operating characteristics and in terms of their potential impacts,” Rolle told the board. “Some of the unique aspects of self-storage facilities [are] that they consume quite a bit of space, and it’s not an active use that generates a lot of sidewalk activity or contributes in a public way to the immediate neighborhood.

“Sometimes existing buildings are demolished to make way for them or historic buildings are inappropriately repurposed for that use,” Rolle added. “This [amendment] will give [planners] the ability to consider these on a case-by-case basis and, perhaps more importantly, also set conditions as part of its approval.”

The city council is expected to refer the amendment to its Economic Development Committee in preparation for a public hearing.

9/9/20 – Officials in Worcester, Mass., are considering a zoning amendment that would require developers to seek a special permit before building self-storage in most business and industrial zones. Currently, self-storage is classified as a general use, which makes approval easier, according to Peter Dunn, the city's chief development officer and the person proposing the change.

City officials called the benefits of self-storage “limited” because facilities create few jobs, often replace historic buildings, have large footprints and don’t “contribute to the vitality of a neighborhood,” Dunn said.

Under the proposal, the zoning board of appeals would consider several factors to determine whether to grant a special permit for self-storage development. These would include accessibility, market demand, site conditions, and historic or architectural significance of the building.

Storage projects in commercial districts would need to adhere to additional provisions. The amendment calls for limits on facility size and restrictions on ground-floor uses. In addition, developers would need to incorporate active uses into the plan, according to the source.

Six self-storage developments have been approved in Worcester since 2016, including a 71,000-square-foot building at 29-49 James St. The mixed-use project will also contain retail or office space totaling 6,000 square feet in an adjacent building.

Telegram & Gazette, Worcester Planners Advance Zoning Change for Self-Storage Businesses
Worcester Business Journal, Worcester Looks to Curb New Self-Storage Projects

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