Moratorium halts new self-storage deals in Birmingham

Kerry Curry
July 3, 2019

The city of Birmingham unanimously passed a moratorium on new self-storage facilities July 2 to give it time to evaluate its current land use policies and decide whether to pass more stringent self-storage restrictions.

The 180-day moratorium, which took effect immediately, restricts new business permitting for self-storage in areas zoned M-2 or I-2 and includes an option to extend it for another 90 days. It does not impact existing self-storage facilities in the city.

City councilors expressed concerns about ensuring that prime real estate spots in the city, especially downtown and along key corridors, are reserved for higher uses such as entertainment, residential, and businesses that will boost the economy.

Controversial projects spur changes

Birmingham city councilor Darrell O’Quinn said a couple of controversial self-storage projects were the catalysts for the moratorium. One involves a multistory self-storage facility under construction near the the city’s signature Vulcan Park, home to the world’s largest cast iron statue which depicts the Roman god of the forge. Another is one that was planned, but not yet under construction, for a vacated Wells Fargo bank near a newly opened distillery and restaurant on downtown’s south side.

“It’s in the city’s best interest to see the highest and best use (of property) in the city center,” O’Quinn said. “Fans of urban planning will understand that density, vibrancy and place-making are extremely important in attracting the highest and best use of property.”

O’Quinn said the moratorium is timely now because several community land-use plans — subsets of the city’s comprehensive plan — are in the works that cover the City Center District (downtown) and the Parkside District. Parkside is undergoing a transition from manufacturing and light industrial uses to more multifamily and mixed-use developments, he said. City Center has also attracted more residents in recent years who desire urban living and walkable entertainment options, he said.

During a public hearing before the moratorium vote, real estate attorneys, developers and self-storage owners spoke against the moratorium while local residents and other business owners spoke in favor of it.

Birmingham isn’t the only city to place a moratorium on new self-storage units. Earlier this year the Coon Rapids, Minnesota, approved a six-month moratorium that includes a ban on expansion of existing self-storage facilities.

A range of other cities in states coast-to-coast have passed similar temporary moratoriums in recent years.

Featured photo by Greg Willis from Denver, CO, usa [CC BY-SA 2.0

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