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Mini Storage and Industrial Land


People have been forwarding to me various land use planner forum comments about permitting of mini-storage businesses on industrially zoned land. The entitlements range from completely allowed by right in all employment zones to a mix of conditional use standards that vary by zone.

The legacy of industrially zoned land in most cities is that it is managed as a low-value wasteland where undesirable uses can be dumped, literally, and figuratively. And yet many of these same cities are anxious to attract jobs and tax base to better afford services to citizens.

Good industrial land is too precious to waste, yet many cities allow and even encourage the waste by allowing and approving a long list of low-value uses. The sad fact is that cities tax, borrow, and spend a lot of money extending expensive infrastructure to industrial land but never control the uses to those worthy of the public investment.

It is true that not all currently zoned industrial land is created equally. That’s why I recommend that cities and counties distinguish and protect their high value industrial and other employment lands, and then jealously manage development for the intended outcomes.

It is fine to have separate low-value designations and zones for nuisance uses that must exist somewhere and done in a way that protects the landowner’s options as much as possible. But it is important to recognize that new investors will be discouraged if the adjacent parcel can become an intentional blight in compliance with the local code. The strategic investment must be matched with strategic management of the land supply if economic development efforts are to be successful.