With 10 such facilities currently operating in Palm Coast and a few more in the pipeline, yet one more self-storage facility is opening in the city.
The Palm Coast Planning Board last week approved a special exception for Horizon Self-Storage, a 98,400 square foot facility on 7 acres off U.S. 1, immediately across from the rapidly sprawling Sawmill Creek development.
All those people moving into their brand new homes there are going to need space for their stuff. A house is no longer enough. “When you see all these residents, all these houses that are in the vicinity, all those people that have junk in their yards or out in their driveways or in their garages, put them in self storage,” Robert Merrell of the Cobb Cole law firm, who represents the developer, told the planning board. “Everything cleans up so you can probably get rid of half of your code enforcement personnel because a lot of them are out there dealing with people who are putting junk in their yard.”
Merrell may have been exaggerating a little, but he had a point: Self-storage facilities may be helping cities control code enforcement violations. The addition of nearly a dozen self-storage facilities in Palm Coast over the last few years, with a few in Flagler Beach and a few more in unincorporated Flagler County, has in fact coincided with a flattening out of code enforcement personnel in Palm Coast over the past 10 years, despite a surge in the local population.
The city’s Code Enforcement Department has gone from a $2.1 million operation in 2013, with 25 full-time employees, to a $3.3 million operation this year–with the same number of employees.
But how affordable will such a facility be, a planning board member asked. Dugan Gravage of Barnard Construction in Bozeman, Mont., who also represents Horizon, said the cost would be market driven–but rent would be around $2 to $2.50 per square foot a month of rentable space indoor. The average storage unit is 10 by 10 feet, resulting in a rent cost of $220 a month. ‘That’s what we’re seeing in the market currently,” Gravage said.
The self-storage facility is on the East side of U.S. 1, a stone’s throw from London Drive, and about 1.2 miles north of Matanzas Woods Parkway. The parcel is owned by B&B Holdings of Palm Coast, a corporation that lists three Massachusetts-based owners in its corporate documents. Their Palm Coast manager is designer and artist Paul Beaulieu.
Horizon would provide 637 indoor storage units for rent, and 40 spaces for recreational vehicles and boats.
According to a traffic study by Mark Dowst and Associates submitted as part of the plans, The facility would generate 145 daily car trips, significantly less than what a retail shopping plaza would generate (3,426 trips in the consultant’s calculation). Existing zoning allows for uses such as restaurants, home improvement centers and hotels, each of which would generate more trips.
Board members were more concerned about buffering the facility from a handful of properties to the north and east, rather than from across U.S. 1. Just five property owners were notified by the city of the pending land-use hearing. Notifications went out only to properties abutting the proposed development.
“This is a permitted use in this zoning classification. There are certain criteria we have to meet,” Merrell said. “The architecture that you see is not the old orange roll-up doors you used to see with self-storage that people didn’t tend to like so much. So this is what you’re seeing now in the marketplace for self storage.” He said the self-storage facility will produce less traffic “than a few houses would produce,” and would be self-contained, safe, with low impacts on water and sewer infrastructure.
The city’s planners recommended approval of the project, with conditions. Those include an eight-foot-tall fence north and east of the facility. Heavy trucks and semis, shipping containers, big buses and construction equipment may not be stored there. The facility may not operate any kind of vehicle rental or leasing operation, nor may users of self-storage units operate businesses out of those units.
“It’s going to be behind a bunch of pine trees,” Merrell said, making “a natural buffer; you’ll never see the building even though it’s going to be nicely architecturally treated.”
“Today, we have more than 50,000 self-storage facilities operating in the United States. There’s nearly 6 square feet of storage for every person in America! Does this mean the industry is overbuilt? Yes, most certainly—in some markets,” Jeffrey Turnbull wrote last January in Inside Self-Storage, an industry advocate. (According to self-storage.com, Florida beats the national average, with 6.29 square feet of space per Floridian.)
Nevertheless, Turnbull wrote, “Self-storage has never been better. It continues to be a successful and strong asset class for investors. Capital is readily available for new construction as well as renovation and expansion of existing sites. Developers have responded by building new, modern facilities with all the latest bells and whistles, while older, big-box retail spaces continue to be converted. In many cases, developers are simply building to resell the store for a quick profit. Amazingly, these new properties have leased up just fine, for the most part.”
The proposal drew no public comment. The planning board approved the self-storage facility with a 7-0 vote. The Horizon project will return to the planning board with a site plan, indicating that it has met all the conditions.