A recently imposed moratorium on new self-storage buildings in parts of Lincolnwood, IL, population 12,500, just outside Chicago, isn’t exactly out of the norm. Developers across the country have met with local opposition to their self-storage projects, whether they’re new construction or conversions of existing properties.

For the record: Lincolnwood’s director of community development, Steve McNellis, said the town isn’t anti-self-storage.

“We are not averse to self-storage or warehouse facilities,” said Steve McNellis, director of community development in Lincolnwood, “This is about where’s the best place for them.”

But the ban does show how even small towns often eager for new businesses – and property tax revenues generated by businesses – are increasingly shunning self-storage projects in their communities, industry officials say.

The town of Lincolnwood, IL recently banned new storage development in its major retail corridors.
The town of Lincolnwood, IL recently banned new storage development in its major retail corridors.

Anywhere but here

Indeed, Lincolnwood already has three prominently located self-storage centers, two of them operated by Public Storage, the giant real estate investment trust, and one owned by Lock Up Self Storage, McNellis said.

No specific proposal sparked the village’s board of trustees recent vote to recommend a one-year moratorium on new self-storage outlets within two business districts located on heavily trafficked roadways in Lincolnwood. Instead, town officials learned from existing property owners that self-storage developers were making calls and scouting out properties for potential new sites, McNellis said.

Those unconfirmed reports alone were enough to prompt village leaders to recommend a moratorium along the two roadways; the moratorium is now technically in effect as the village’s planning commission decides the next step for the town.

One of two Public Storage facilities in Lincolnwood.
One of two Public Storage facilities in Lincolnwood.

Off the beaten path

The ultimate goal, McNellis said, is to encourage future self-storage developers to build or convert properties within Lincolnwood’s officially designated “manufacturing and business district,” in a less high-profile part of the village. That district is already home to more than a dozen warehouses, he said

McNellis said storage facilities don’t fit into the town’s vision of main streets with restaurants and shops and other retail ventures.

“They don’t interact with street activities,” McNellis said.

Same old tune

Industry officials say they’ve heard the same complaints before – and it’s harming their industry.

“It’s very frustrating,” said Tom Drake, owner of Secure Storage Inc. facilities in Rockport and Morris, Illinois.

Drake, the past president of the Illinois Self-storage Association, said he’s meeting similar opposition to his plans to expand his Morris facility by 100 units. Like in other communities, Morris officials have objected to the lack of jobs provided by self-storage facilities and complained that self-storage properties don’t pay sales taxes, he said

The latter point bothers Drake, who says banks and doctors’ offices aren’t expected to pay sales taxes – and yet self-storage properties are held to a different standard.

“We provide a service, like other service companies,” said Drake, who is still a board member at the state self-storage association.

Developer Dave King said the key to cutting red tape is patience and communication.
Developer Dave King said the key to cutting red tape is patience and communication.

Opposition everywhere

Michael Kane, president of the Massachusetts Self-Storage Association and owner of 126 Self-Storage in Ashland, MA, said he hears the exact same complaints in the Northeast.

“It’s very unfair,” Kane said. “Do you think we build self-storage for the pleasure of it? There’s a public demand out there for these services. It’s a business.”

Dave King, vice president of self-storage at Wentworth Property Co. in Phoenix, AZ, said he’s also a little frustrated with what he sees as a general increase in regulations for all types of developments, not just for self-storage.

But he said the key is to be patient with communities, not confrontational, and listen to the concerns of residents and government officials.

Working together

“It is what it is,” King said of opposition to some facilities. “I can understand where both sides are coming from. When you try to understand [opponents], you can deal with them better.”

As a result of his firm’s policy of patience and cooperation, King said his company – which operates in Arizona, California, Nevada and Oregon – has six new self-storage projects under construction and three conversion projects under way. When those projects are finished, Wentworth will own about 8,000 storage units in all, he said.

“We’re probably going to see more repositioning of older properties into self-storage, but [towns] want manufacturing and other uses for properties,” he said, “You have to explain to them all the benefits of self-storage.”

Jay Fitzgerald