Storage unit

Steven Saal, the owner of Downtown Storage, a set of mini-storage units in Blair, was required to make improvements as part of the extension of a non-conforming uses permit approved in April by the Blair City Council. 

An ordinance to create a special mixed use residential overlay district to allow mini storage units in specific residential areas was denied Jan. 14 by the Blair City Council.

The owner of Downtown Storage, a set of mini-storage units located at 230 N. 20th St., sought the change. In April, the council approved a two-year extension for a non-conforming use permit for the property.

A non-conforming uses permit was required for the storage units because the zoning of the area has been changed since they were constructed and they are no longer allowed in the current residential multi-family low density (RML) area.

The overlay district would have allowed storage units in RML. Such facilities, however, would need to be approved with a conditional use permit.

“The only problem I have with this is this could also be used to build new. Is that correct?” council member Brad Andersen asked.

“It could be if it was granted,” Assistant City Administrator Phil Green said.

City Administrator Rod Storm said the overlay district is merely a tool to potentially allow such facilities to be built in certain areas.

“If you have it in your (zoning) book that it should be allowed some place, it should be allowed some place,” Green said. “But it doesn't need to be allowed every place. Your general zoning district allows it every place that that zoning district exists. But with the conditional use permit, you're saying certain places would be appropriate, maybe certain places would not be. An overlay intensifies that even more.”

Storm added that the council would have to give “good, sound supportable reasons why you're not going to allow it here, but you're not going to allow it somewhere else.”

That concerned Andersen and City Attorney Desirae Solomon who said neighbor complaints alone couldn't be used as a reason for denying a permit for storage units. It could open the city up to liability.

“I think we need to listen to our community. People have valid complaints,” Solomon said. “But I think you really have to as a council look at was it a traffic problem, were there break-ins, what is really going on with the piece of black acre? Why are we allowing it here? Why do we not allow it here? And neighborhood complaints are a very sticky area to just base all your decision making on denying somebody just on that.”

Andersen said he felt it was in the city's best interest to deny the ordinance.

“(Storage units) are the most dangerous piece of kind of development when it comes to mixing it with homes because they are so cheap to put up and a lot of times they are put up by investment companies and ignored from a far,” Andersen said. “The neighborhood has no cause of action and the city can't do anything.”

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