Central Falls, Rhode Island seeks to curb self-storage growth

Posted by Modern Storage Media on Mar 4, 2024 4:44:58 PM

Central Falls, Rhode Island may be the latest city to enact self-storage moratoriums. Spearheaded by City Council President Robert Ferri, the new initiative seeks to recalibrate the city's approach to land use, prioritizing space for more diverse economic activities while curbing the growth of self-storage and warehouse facilities. This move comes on the heels of ordinances proposed in the neighboring Rhode Island cities of Pawtucket and Providence.


If the Central Falls ordinance passes, it would alter zoning regulations by removing self-storage as a permitted use in all zones without the need for a special-use permit. Ferri's advocacy for the ordinance is meant to "provide preference for developments that contribute more actively to the community's economic vitality and architectural fabric." This regulatory shift will do just that, giving officials greater control over the development landscape.


Under the new guidelines, self-storage and warehouse facilities could still find a home in Central Falls, but their establishment would be contingent on securing a special-use permit within designated commercial and industrial districts. However, this regulatory mechanism still gives city planners the ability to scrutinize new developments and their potential impact on the city’s economic health and spatial dynamics.


MSM spoke with Charlie Fritts, President of the Northeast Self Storage Association (NeSSA), about the Rhode Island bans. Fritts says that any self-storage development is done to meet demand, and thus serves a need. "No one is going to build a self-storage facility where there’s no market demand for it. No lender is going to loan money to a developer who hasn’t done due diligence. I don’t think the city has talked to enough people, or done their research, or understand how developers map out locations."


Fritts acknowledges that although self-storage doesn't create a lot of jobs, "Facilities do pay the full tax load like any other commercial real estate, without adding more children to overcrowded schools or traffic to busy roads."


He says whereas a 200-unit apartment may add several hundred vehicle round trips per day to the roadways, a 500-unit storage building is typically less than 40 round trips since customers do not come to storage every day. This means a very light carbon footprint. "Plus," adds Fritts, "Facilities use very little when it comes to utilities like water and sewer."


MSM also spoke with Scott Zucker, a Partner in the Atlanta based law firm Weissmann/Zucker, P.C. and a national expert on self-storage law and development, about the Rhode Island self-storage bans.


“The perceptions about self storage that have led to these moratoriums are really unwarranted,” said Zucker. “If you look carefully at self-storage as a real estate product, it creates the unique ability to offer mixed-use capacity. We have seen developments that couple retail and personal services with self storage as well as even multi-family residential options. All of the arguments against self storage can be addressed and resolved with a good design and a flexible planning department.”


As Central Falls moves forward with its proposed ordinance amendment, the implications for local and regional development will be closely watched.


Courtney Kahler, Executive Director of NeSSA, says the association remains committed to working through any proposed bans and educating people through grassroots efforts. “Our board members will be going to council meetings to speak out about these bans,” she says. “And, we’re looking to partner with the SSA to stop these bans.”