Tighter rules on where and how self-storage facilities in Miami are constructed could soon become law.

The city of Miami’s Planning, Zoning, and Appeals Board (PZAB) unanimously approved an ordinance calling for strict regulations that would limit the development of new public storage facilities in many parts of Miami.

The board approved the measure on Dec. 7 and it is now headed to the City Commission for two readings in the near future – possibly in February and in March, according to Joseph Eisenberg, a city planner.

Proposed restrictions

The controversial ordinance has developers more than a little concerned. It proposes a minimum separation of 2500 feet between self-storage facilities in two of Miami’s zoning designations, T5 and T6.

“Our analysis has shown that even with the separation requirement in place, roughly half the property in the city zoned T5 and T6 would still be available for self-storage construction,” wrote Eisenberg via email.

The ordinance also mandates that self-storage facilities have ground-floor commercial space – at least 50 percent of which is dedicated to use independent of the self-storage facility.

“One of the primary goals of our zoning code is to activate the pedestrian realm, which contributes visual interest and safety to the city,” Eisenberg wrote.

Many uses – such as condos or commercial developments – accomplish that by default, he said.

“People go in and out of these establishments throughout the day and night, they often have many windows that provide ‘eyes on the street,’ he wrote. “These benefits to the public realm are not as inherent to self-storage facilities which often see minimal traffic and, for the sake of efficiency and security, tend to be windowless boxes. This incompatibility was the main reason for this proposal.”

Banner Storage Group is nearing completion of a new facility at 2190 SW 8th Street in Miami, FL

More hoops

Based on a recommendation from the PZAB, the planners modified the ordinance to require a public hearing for all new proposed facilities and a design review from the Urban Development Review Board.

Eisenberg emphasized that city planners acknowledge the need for self-storage facilities and believe there is demonstrative market demand.

“That is why we are not seeking any sort of prohibition,” he wrote. “We simply hope that this ordinance spreads out any of the deleterious effects that we have seen from self-storage facilities in the past, and encourages the creation of more activated and visually pleasing structures.” 

Dampening effect

Jay Crotty, managing partner of Tampa-based SkyView Advisors, notes that it is not uncommon for cities to try and limit self-storage development. He says it’s too early to tell if the Miami market is oversaturated, though.

“Self-storage is a service that is appreciated and utilized and it is important that it is close to where people are living and is convenient for them to get to,” he wrote via e-mail.

Limiting self-storage development would “significantly alter the plans of developers,” Crotty added.

“It will be very interesting to see how they will adapt to the changes,” he said.

Preliminary analysis from the department shows around 30 facilities that have been completed or are in for permit within the City of Miami, according to Eisenberg.

Anyone who can submit a full application to the city before the ordinance takes effect will likely be grandfathered in.

Developers on edge

Gary Delaney, president of Chicago-based Banner Storage Group LLC, has been developing in the Miami market for about 20 years and currently has four self-storage developments under construction in the city.

He’s not surprised by the ordinance.

“Miami’s never been a big fan of self-storage,” Delaney said. “They want the streets to be more activated, more of an urban center. Self-storage doesn’t activate a street. So while customers like that we’re close and convenient – it runs counter to what the city wants.”

He is waiting to see what is ultimately passed.

“If it (the separation) is increased, it will significantly impact future developments in Miami,” Delaney said. “Even just a 2,500 foot radius around every self-storage facility would leave very few pockets where you can put something.”

If it is increased to say, 5,000 feet, he believes there will be hardly any locations large enough to build a self-storage facility.

“That would almost create a situation where there’d be zero development,” he said.

Michael Mele, senior director of Marcus & Millichap’s National Self Storage Group in Tampa, agrees such an ordinance will make things “extremely difficult” for developers.

“This is good news for existing operators because there will be less competition and they can raise prices as they see fit without worrying if someone will undercut them,” he said. “But developers who aren’t grandfathered in are going to have a big problem.”

Mary Ann Azevedo