CITY OF CHEWELAH: Zoning change approved to allow mini storage in city’s retail business areas

(JARED ARNOLD/Chewelah Independent)

SPACE FOR STUFF: Move will allow mini-storage units to be built in retail areas…

Mini storage development in the city’s retail business areas will now be allowed after the Chewelah city council voted unanimously to approve the amendment to the city’s zoning rules at their Jan. 20 meeting.

Previously, mini-storage facilities were only permitted in “Commercial Industrial” zones and conditionally permitted in “Airport Golf Course” zones. The new rules add a conditional permitting process for mini-storage in the city’s “Retail Business” zones, which are primarily located along Main Avenue and Park Street. By definition in the proposal, “’Mini-storage facility, self-storage warehouse, self-service storage means an industry in which storage space (such as rooms, lockers, containers and/or recreational vehicle storage) also known as ‘storage units’ is rented to tenants, usually on a short-term basis.”

Additionally, the zoning amendment lays out standards for the use and development of mini-storage facilities, as well as design considerations for facilities that are developed adjacent to residential zones.

Although she later voted in favor of the zoning amendment, Councilwoman Jolene McGee did raise a concern that she felt the new rules governing mini storage may be “too prescriptive.”

“My own personal opinion is we don’t want to get too prescriptive on what a business has to look like and put too many restrictions on it so it becomes just so burdensome on the business owner and becomes too costly for them to even implement it,” McGee explained to her fellow councilmembers.

“But I do understand having some kind of aesthetic control over it. I’ve come from places where so many restrictions are put on businesses and it becomes almost so burdensome that companies can’t afford it. [I’m] just concerned about getting too far into the prescriptive part of how a business should look and what it needs to comply with,” McGee added.

The new rules that McGee appeared most concerned with include a provision that allows only 25 percent of the street frontage area to be occupied by the mini storage facility. At least 75 percent of the street frontage area must be occupied by a “storefront or other allowed uses” which “shall be contextual in design and architecturally compatible with other adjacent and nearby first-story commercial uses.”

To help alleviate McGee’s concerns, city planner Alicia Ayars showed the council picture examples of acceptable designs that largely screen the storage facility from public view through a combination of retail storefront structures and landscaping. She contrasted those examples with pictures of other poorly-maintained storage facilities, which she said the city would like to avoid.

The city’s hearing examiner had previously conducted a public hearing about the proposal in July and issued a formal report in October recommending that the city council approve the zoning amendment.

The next regular meetings of the Chewelah City Council are scheduled for Wednesday, February 17 and Wednesday, March 3 starting at 6:30 p.m. The meetings will likely be held virtually by Zoom to comply with Covid-19 pandemic restrictions. Check the city’s website at cityofchewelah.org or call city hall at 935-8311 for meeting log-in instructions.