With Commercial Land Capped Out West, A Loophole Emerges For Self-Storage Facilities

Changes made to the Comprehensive Plan will now allow self-storage buildings to be exempt from commercial cap space in the Ag Reserve.

When is a 130,000 square-foot, three-story self-storage facility not a commercial business? When it’s in the Ag Reserve.

With the Ag Reserve already at a commercial square-foot cap of 1 million square feet, the builder’s agent, Ken Tuma, came up with a novel approach: Exempt self-storage buildings from the commercial cap.

The reserve was designed as a sanctuary for farming and a rural lifestyle, but much land has still been developed there as western property has boomed in Palm Beach County.

County planning commissioners, urged on by the Planning Commission staff and the Coalition of Boynton West Residential Associations (COBWRA), agreed recently to recommend a change to the county’s Comprehensive Plan to accommodate a self-storage building on a 7-acre tract of land on the northwest corner of Boynton Beach Boulevard and Acme Dairy Road.

Because of the cap, the builder, Gary Smigiel of Lake Worth, was limited to a 40,000 square-foot commercial project, far less than the 130,000 square feet he needs for the self-storage building. He is proposing to build 20,000 square feet of commercial in addition to the self-storage. The commercial project will consist of retail and a restaurant. But the self-storage building won’t be considered commercial if the change to the Comprehensive Plan is made.

County commissioners are expected to act on the Planning Commission recommendation in 2020. Tuma told planning commissioners there is a real need for self-storage facilities as a number of large-scale developments have been built in recent years west of Boynton Beach and Delray Beach. Many of these communities prevent homeowners from storing items in their garages, he noted.

With limited space available for commercial development in the Ag Reserve, developers have yet to build a self-storage building.

The Ag Reserve is an area in the western end of the county with special rules designed to protect the region from over-development. It is the only part of the county with a cap on commercial development and a requirement that residential developers set aside a large portion of their property for open space.

Planning Commissioner Dagmar Brahs was a reluctant supporter of the “West Boynton Center” project. She said she is concerned about a precedent being set that could result in other self-storage facilities being built throughout the Ag Reserve.

“What we are doing here is making a change to accommodate a land user,” Brahs said. “That stinks.”

“To justify the zoning change, many retirees downsized when they moved into Ag Reserve developments,” Tuma said. “It is imperative for many of them to store some of their belongings in nearby self-storage facilities. Self-storage generates much less traffic than the majority of commercial uses permitted in the Ag Reserve.”

The site currently consists of a retail store, a small office and an apartment. The northern portion of the site is utilized for a nursery.

“COBWRA believes that the West Boynton Center is a good fit for the area,” COBWRA representative Steve Oseroff said. “It will serve as a book-end to the Cobblestone Commons commercial development just to the west on Boynton Beach Boulevard.”

 

Source: Palm Beach Post

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