Another self-storage facility is on its way, this one a 102,000 square-foot facility called Life Storage, to be built off Airport Road in the Flagler County portion of the subdivision at the southeast end of the county that straddles the Flagler-Volusia line.
But as with several other self-storage facilities recently approved by local governments–one of them drew a lawsuit–Life Storage is drawing pointed if legally tenuous opposition.
The facility, which will accommodate boats and RVs, will be located east of Hunters Ridge Boulevard, in an area still largely unbuilt to its north, east and west, but abutting a cul-de-sac with a few homes jutting north from a subdivision to its south, and amid acreage that is set for additional development. The active part of the facility–its buildings and its parking zones–will be set back somewhat from the area of the cul-de-sac, with wetlands and conservation areas at the southeast end of the self-storage property accounting for some of those buffers.
Still, the proposal, to which the planning board recommended approval on a 6-1 vote, drew the sort of public opposition that now routinely shadows new self-storage facilities. The facilities are popping up rapidly in the county and its cities, concurrently with a booming industry.
“I don’t think it’s the greatest place really for self storage and RV parking when there’s the other end of Airport Road where there’s an industrial park,” Jack Corbett, who chairs the planning board, said. He cited nearby State Road 40 as a better location. But, he aid, something of a commercial nature would be built there whether the storage facility is approved or not. “We approved one of these a few months ago that backs up to my street. Literally a self storage place that backs up to my street got approved and people didn’t like it. I don’t like it. But it’s better than having a Dollar Store or it’s better than having a something worse. It’s a pretty quiet industry. You’ll drive by these places, you see nothing going on. And so that’s why some of the residents were for it, some weren’t. But just keep in mind however this goes, you end up having something light industrial or commercial along Airport Road.” Nevertheless, Corbett’s was the lone dissenting vote.
The facility, anchored by a three-story building 50 feet high, will operate from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., seven days a week, with lighting aimed downward to minimize impacts on nearby residents and additional vegetation buffers. The proposal must still get approval from the County Commission.
Kim Booker of Orange City-based Booker and Associates, the law firm representing the developer, briefed the board on the history of the property, which is part of the now more-than-30-year-old Hunters Ridge Development of Regional Impact (it was amended in 2010). The DRI reserved over 232,000 square feet of commercial and light industrial space. The
The zoning for Life Storage is light industrial, making it compatible with a self-storage facility. In other words, that’s the sort of development for which it was permitted all along. The facility’s impact on roads would be less than, say, a shopping mall. There was very little the planning board could legally do to stand in the way of a “vested” property, other than impose a few conditions of development.
Several Hunter’s Ridge residents objected. One spoke about Airport Road, a two-lane road owned by the same company that owns the site of the proposed self-storage facility–US Capital Alliance–saying it gets “clogged up” even now. (Adam Mengel, the county’s planning director, said the road is slated eventually to be four-laned.) “Where I’m from, no private company owns a major road from route 42 to U.S. 1, so I’m not happy and we’ve got a petition going, we’ve got over 200 signatures that are against this, and we’re working on it.”
The next speaker, James Gilardi, said the petition had actually accrued 404 signatures, and listed several objections, acknowledging that “many of our objections are anecdotal by design.” He said emissions from the RV’s, traffic, property values, crime would all have impacts on nearby residents (he said he can see the full facility’s layout from his second floor). “Right now, the crime on that lot is zero,” he said, claiming that the addition of a facility would inevitably change that. He was accurate only to the extent that human activity as opposed to fallow grounds almost inevitably changes the crime rate, but numbers point to a higher crime rate in typical residential neighborhoods than in self-storage facilities–a point Booker made in rebuttal.
A resident who lives within 100 feet of the proposed construction site said some homes are only 30 to 40 feet from it–a lesser distance than how far her own children can throw a football. “So for the moms in the community that I’ve spoken with, this proposal is completely outrageous,” she said. “We will no longer feel safe and comfortable in our homes. I know that I’m going to have to have an advanced alarm system, always have to have my doors locked and triple checked. It’s been honestly really hard to sleep at night since this proposal has been brought to my attention.”
“My neighborhood is besieged by the glory of Flagler county’s fauna and flora,” Susan Garrison told the board. “Any destruction of 10.44 acres of wooded land should be taken extremely seriously.” She said she had no idea, when she moved into her community for people 55 and over, that she would be living next to what she called “a warehouse,” before echoing others: “We do not need this.”
Booker, the attorney for the developer, reiterated some of those points and spoke about many residents’ concerns about children’s safety: “The developer donated the school sites is this is the school sites are part of the overall development. So all of this has been taken into account when the development master plan was created,” Booker said. ASs for the road, she said, Flagler County chose not to have responsibility for it, leaving it in private hands.
“This is a new developer, they acquired it in April of last year,” Booker said. “They’ve made significant improvements in my opinion from the last developer. They’re actually moving forward with the development, which is usually what we have heard from Flagler County–nothing was happening in Flagler County. So this developer has made significant strides in moving this project forward.” And, she cautioned, “there is going to be significant development in this area based on the master plan that’s already been approved. And as part of this application this is consistent with the comprehensive plan. It’s consistent with this DRI.”
Some 19 people spoke in opposition.
“Many of the residents came here not understanding your role tonight,” Sean Moylan, the assistant county attorney advising the planning board Tuesday evening, told the board members. “The planning board here tonight is making a recommendation. It’s not a final approval. It goes to the county commission for a final approval.” The project, he said, was vested a while back. “The developer has put in infrastructure, paid money and got it all approved through the proper channels and processes many, many years ago. It’s already on the books, and they’re just coming in now to actually build it. And I know many of you weren’t aware, and that’s why you’re commenting the way you are. But if we were to deny it, the landowner would then have a claim against the county for denying them due process of developing their own land.”
The public may ask for a few conditions, like limiting the impact of the facility on the impacted cul de sac by addressing lighting and hours of operation. “Things like that would be appropriate but to just deny something that’s already approved, that’s not really what we’re here for.”