Inside Self-Storage

JUN 2019

Inside Self-Storage (ISS) is an information source for industry owners, managers, developers and investors covering news, trends, facility operation, finance, real estate, construction, development, marketing, technology, insurance and legality.

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C ommunities, townships, cities, counties and neighbors all love self-storage, right? Unfortunately, that isn't the case. A senior city planner recently told me, "Self-storage is a pig, and we need to put as much lipstick on it as possible." This negative perception can sometimes spill over into the policies jurisdictions adopt to manage storage development, making the process of project approval more challenging. If you're seeking to build a new facility, it's helpful to understand the zoning process. To help ensure success, here are five steps to follow. 1. Understand the Rules of the Game Understanding the rules with which you're required to comply is critical in getting project approval. Zoning decisions are based on several documents, but it all starts with the community's general plan, which identifies the values and goals that govern decision-making. One section of the plan addresses land use. It includes a map identifying areas for certain types of uses such as residential, commercial and industrial. The zoning ordinance then provides information for the implementation of the land-use plan by defining zones, each of which includes items such as: • Permitted uses • Conditional uses • Accessory uses • Setbacks • Height restrictions • Lot coverage • Floor-area ratio • Frontage requirements • Open-space requirements Detailed plans and overlay zones provide area-specific regulations. Historic preservation, hillside/slope ordinances, tree ordinances and architectural guidelines provide additional directive. Other rules might also apply such as those related to utilities, easements, wetlands, soil contamination, flood zones and CC&Rs (covenants, conditions and restrictions). The list goes on. This is all part of the jurisdiction's "rulebook" for development. It's important to do your own research and read the fine print. Self-storage may be a permitted use in an area but with restrictions that are problematic for our industry. For example, there may be stipulations that a facility can't be more than 5,000 square feet, on a major or minor arterial street, within half a mile of a major intersection or existing storage facility, or on the first floor of a mixed-use building. Conditional uses and approval processes are also filled with pitfalls, so do your homework and understand these rules of the game. Plan Your Approach Now that you have information about your site, it's time to plan your approach. Start with a pre-application meeting, which is a great opportunity to talk to multiple city departments at once, gather comments and hear potential concerns. If there's no official meeting, host an informal one by assembling as many key staff members as possible. Next, identify the various approvals you need to move forward with your project. These might include: • Site plan • Community council • Lot consolidation • Platting • CC&Rs • Wetland delineation • Architectural-review board • Zone changes • Historic preservation • Special-use permit Identify approvals that are administrative and can be approved by city staff vs. those that are legislative and require a formal meeting or hearing. Then determine which approvals can be handled concurrently and assemble a schedule and budget to pursue them. For example, you don't want to have to postpone a scheduled hearing because you haven't completed another critical step. Perhaps you first need a wetland-delineation verification, an approval letter from an easement holder that has a billboard or pipeline on your property, community-council approval or a will-serve letter from a utility company. Understanding all steps of the process and when they need to occur will save you time and money. Identify Fatal Flaws At this point, you'll have an idea of some of the potential challenges you're facing with your project. What constitutes a fatal flaw? An issue that'll either prevent the project from being approved or financeable or one that alters the cost of the project to the point that it's no longer accretive. Fatal flaws come in many shapes and sizes, including: • Permit and impact fees • Zoning interpretation • Low water-system pressure for f re sprinklers • Extensive design requirements • Storm-water requirements • Flood zones • Topography of the site • Construction costs • Offsite improvements • Neighbor opposition Each project is different, so something that's fatal for one might not be for another. However, it's important to understand and accept when something becomes lethal, so you don't continue to pursue a project that won't be approved or no longer makes economic sense. 5 Guidelines to help you get zoning approval By Scott Wyckof Steps to Successful Entitlement 20 ISS I June 2019

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