Potential Providence, RI Self Storage Ban

Posted by Admin on Jul 4, 2023 12:00:00 AM

Self storage has been growing at a rapid pace in Providence, Rhode Island, but some think it’s time to put a moratorium on any more growth. The Providence Journal reports that officials have begun mulling over a self storage development ban in specific zones, with three city councilors backing a motion that would preserve vacant lands for residential areas and other commercial projects.

It all began in April of this year, when new self-storage warehouses sprouted up and brought the industry’s grand total to 17 facilities covering more than 6 million square feet. At the time, Councilman Miguel Sanchez lamented the lost economic potential and the shrinking area for housing construction. “What we’re seeing is this industry … gobbling up a lot of land that, in our opinion, should be used for other purposes,” he said.

“Any rational person who comprehends the severity and extent of this housing crisis would find this to be a grave injustice,” added Councilman Justin Roias. “The continual growth and expansion of [self storage] is a significant injustice to our city, permitted by our current zoning laws.”

Changing Zoning Laws

The newly proposed ban would change these zoning laws, effectively removing self storage as a “by-right” use from heavy commercial (C-3) zones. This would allow these areas to be reserved for housing developments. The ban would also add a special-use permit requirement for light industrial, the only other place self storage development is allowed.

The move to put a moratorium on self storage intensified due to two self storage projects in Providence: a single-story facility off of Manton Avenue and a five-story Trunk Space LLC facility at 50 Branch Avenue that would add 1,400 more self storage units to the city. Although no one spoke out against the projects during the initial planning-commission meetings, and the Trunk Space facility was even granted approval, ordinance cosponsor and Ward 3 councilor Sue AnderBois says her constituents have since expressed concerns about the development. She called the matter “urgent” and said an update to the zoning code would be consistent with the city’s comprehensive plan.

Deputy Planning Director Bob Azar reminded the planning commission and city council that housing isn’t permitted in light-industrial zones, so self-storage wouldn’t displace these potential projects.

“Noxious,” is how John Garrahy, an attorney who previously represented a self-storage development before the commission, described the ban. He stated the self storage is a much-needed service, and that some building conversions or vacant land would be better served self storage development over housing.

The possible self storage moratorium in Providence comes on the heels of other cities enacting similar bans. As reported here, two Florida cities, Cape Coral and Vero Beach, have put a hold on any development, and West Gardiner, Maine, has recently extended an existing moratorium an additional six months.

UPDATE: Ban Passes

In a vote on July 20, the city council passed the zoning ordinance amendment, banning new self-storage facilities from being developed in the future in the city. In a statement, Major Whip Miguel Sanchez of Ward 6 said in part, “My colleagues and I have been saying ‘let’s house people, not things.’ The council has committed to moving away from these types of development projects and fully embracing efforts to build affordable housing.”