City is looking to save Queens’ industrial districts from large self-storage facilities

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Self-storage facilities are popping up all over Queens, including in some of the borough’s industrial hubs.

Hoping to protect manufacturing zones in the borough, the city Department of City Planning (DCP) is looking to require a special permit if those facilities wish to open in a manufacturing district.

DCP brought their proposal for a Self-Storage Zoning Text Amendment to Community Board 5 (CB 5) on Wednesday, June 14, at Christ the King High School in Middle Village so the board could hear their pitch and vote on the proposal.

The proposal states that a special permit would be required, under the jurisdiction of DCP, for all new self-service storage facilities in the newly designated areas within manufacturing districts, or Industrial Business Zones (IBZs), to ensure that the development of these facilities would not limit future siting opportunities for more job-intensive industrial uses in those areas.

This special permit would play into Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Industrial Action Plan, which seeks to protect designated industrial areas from other uses. The unregulated development of these self-storage facilities actually detracts from the city’s goals of growing jobs in IBZs.

“These uses tend to be very low in generating new jobs,” said Tom Smith, a city planner with DCP. “You could have a very large facility but a very small staff, because really all you have to do is have someone to let people in and out … and they tend to occupy large sites along truck routes and highways. So these are the sites that you most want to market to actual production or manufacturing uses because they have the most viability.”

In Queens there are a total of 63 self-storage facilities. Of those 63, 25 are located in IBZs, another 26 are in other M districts, two are in C8 districts, and 10 are legal and nonconforming because they were grandfathered in before any zoning changes were made. There are also four pre-construction facilities in the city, with one of those in an IBZ.

A special permit would be granted to new self-storage facilities on sites that are not appropriate for other industrial uses based on the following conditions:

  • the zoning lot size, or the lot or building configuration;
  • proximity to truck routes;
  • the capacity of local streets providing access to the lot;
  • investments in comparable sites in the vicinity;
  • a need for environmental remediation; or
  • the potential conflict between potential industrial uses and existing uses in the area.

Existing self-storage facilities, however, will be able to remain and even expand within their original zoning lot.

The special permit would require developers to go through the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP) process instead of being able to build self-storage facilities as of right in IBZs.

“All we’re trying to do here with this is: one, lay a little bit of ground work for not having certain uses in IBZs,” said Walter Sanchez, chair of the CB 5 Land Use Committee. “And where we’re going with this is, not that we’re not allowing it, but you have to go for a special permit … what’s happen is it’s changing the demand to the very big manufacturing zones and they can do it in other manufacturing zones as of right … but, in an industrial area just come and ask us and go through the procedure and find out what the community thinks, that’s all.”

The full board took a vote on the proposed text amendment after Sanchez declared that the Land Use Committee had no objections. It was a unanimous 36-0 vote in favor of implementing the text amendment.

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