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Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Zoning Change Could Clear the Way for Self-Storage Facility

A hearing to discuss a proposal for a self-storage facility on Alexandria Pike will be held in August. Google Street View

At its June meeting, the Fort Thomas Planning Commission voted to recommend a text change to the city’s general commercial zoning ordinance that will add certain types of self-storage facilities to the list of more than 60 businesses approved for the zone.

While making the recommendation to city council, the commissioners also included a definition describing exactly what type of storage facility would be allowable. Under the definition, a self-storage facility is one that includes "individual, indoor, self-contained units leased for storage. A minimum of 95 percent of the units are accessed only by internal means."

The definition does not include the typical outdoor access storage business characterized by large garage-type units and multiple indoor and outdoor access points.

Public hearing set for August

About 30 people attended the Planning Commission meeting to address a request by Bob Heil, principal, president and CEO of KLH Engineers, for the zone change with a plan to build a self-storage facility at 1420 and 1424 Alexandria Pike. The facility would be a part of SafeShip, a company owned by Heil’s son Elliot Heil.

Heil proposes to build a two-story building that would be accessed by customers from a second-floor entrance. The approximately 43,000-square-foot building would contain 140 storage units per floor.

RELATED: SafeShip Proposing to Build Self-Storage Business On US-27

Commissioners noted that only changes to the zoning ordinance would be considered for the June meeting. The text change would apply to the entire general commercial zone and would affect all areas within the city designated to be in the general commercial zone.

A public hearing to discuss the Heil proposal specifically is set for the August 15 meeting of the Planning Commission. The meeting will begin at 7 p.m.

Neighbors express concerns

Although the public hearing on the Alexandria Pike properties was moved to August, several people from the neighborhood near the proposed Heil project were prepared to share concerns.

Jim Healy of Holly Woods Drive attended the meeting on his wife’s behalf. Mary Healy, who was out of the country, expressed her concerns to the commission through a letter that was read into the record.

In part, she said a zoning change concerned neighbors because the impact of a self-storage facility was unknown. She said a self-storage facility would not fit into the vision for the area.

"Such a facility is not within the vision or needs of Fort Thomas residents," she said. "During the meetings which I attended as a member of the Land Use and Zoning Committee ‘study group' beginning in the fall of 2017, various members expressed a desire for Fort Thomas to be a community like Hyde Park, Mariemont and to have successful retail like Bellevue/Dayton."

She added that none of the communities mentioned have self-storage businesses. At the same time, she noted there were 20 self-storage facilities in the Cincinnati area, four of them in Campbell County, that are not near residential areas.

Mary Healy’s letter listed additional concerns about the transient nature of self-storage facilities, potential traffic and noise issues. Jim Healy also presented a petition against the text changes signed by 18 Holly Woods Drive residents.

Nine residents from Holly Woods Drive, Hawthorne Avenue and Crowell Avenue, near the proposed self-storage facility, addressed the commissioners and echoed the Healys’ concerns.

Demand is growing

Heil, who lives on Greene Street, said he welcomes public discourse on the topic but took issue with some of the concerns about the nature of a self-storage facility.

"I am well aware of the perception of self-storage facilities as rows and rows of corrugated metal buildings with garage doors. Quite frankly, I do not want that in our city...As a property owner in one of our general commercial zones, I would want any building in that zone to add to the overall value of the neighborhood and not subtract from it."

Heil noted that a shift in demographics and lifestyle changes has resulted in a growing demand for self-storage and an increase in the demand for facilities in commercial zones.

"One in ten U.S. households now rent a self-storage unit. Applying that ratio to Fort Thomas, that means in Fort Thomas there is already likely 1,645 people who rent self-storage facilities,” he said.

We need to make sure our zoning ordinance addresses the modern needs of our citizens and the business community. I believe that the inclusion of self-storage businesses in our general commercial zone addresses a deficiency in our zoning ordinance."

Planning Commission recommends change

The commissioners voted five to two to recommend the text changes and definition to the general commercial zoning ordinance. The two members who voted "no" said they wanted more time to consider the issue and to take a closer look at the industrial as well as the commercial zoning ordinances.

The Fort Thomas City Council will consider and vote on the text change to the general commercial zoning ordinance at its July meeting. If passed, the change will affect all of the areas zoned general commercial throughout the city.

The public is invited to discuss Heil’s proposed development plan at the hearing on August 15 at the Fort Thomas City Building.

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