Getting the benefits of self-storage facilities without harming neighborhood quality of life
Self-storage facilities, like those pictured above, provide an important service. According to one industry webpage, the square footage of U.S. self-storage space has increased 16% in the past five years and reached more than 1.6 billion square feet by 2022.
CEDS is often asked if there’s any reason to be concerned about a proposed self-storage facility. These questions come from people living near the site of a proposed facility.
Our answer begins with the basic issue of compatibility of any commercial use with homes. In general, commercial uses should restricted to commercially-zoned property with adequate buffers if home are present nearby. The buffer will reduce negative effects such as noise and glare from lights.
We recently carried out a limited survey of those living near existing self-storage facilities. The survey was prompted by CEDS clients concerned about self-storage facilities proposed for sites in our home state of Maryland and in Texas.
We identified a pool of candidate facilities for study which were located in the general vicinity of the two proposed facilities. This pool consisted of eleven facilities in Maryland and a dozen in Texas. Of these 23 existing self-storage facilities, slightly less than half (11) were near homes. We felt it was unlikely that a neighbor would experience any adverse effects if a storage facility was not visible from their home.
The following letter was sent to a sampling of those living within sight of a self-storage facility, but at varying distances. Recipients were asked to complete an online survey at: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/storageneighbors
Of the 11 facilities, those living near three completed the online survey. A person living near one of the three facilities did not report any negative effects and wrote that they felt having a storage facility on the site was better than if it were developed with homes.
One Texas facility generated most of the responses. Following are the negative effects reported by those living near this one storage facility:
- Storage facility noise was cited as an issue by two neighbors,
- One noted light trespass-glare as an issue,
- Three reported other issues, and
- Two thought the facility affected the value of their property.
These negatives effects were experienced by those living within 100- to 200-feet of this facility. Runoff was cited as an issue by a neighbor living 400 feet from a storage facility.
CEDS has conducted a number of these surveys throughout the U.S. for a variety of proposed land uses that had the potential for adversely affected neighborhoods. We’ve found that we get a high response when a land use has been causing problems but few when a use has been mostly benign.
Given that those living near only one of eleven existing self-storage facilities included in this limited survey reported adverse effects, one might say that it is unlikely that a proposed self-storage facility will harm nearby residents, especially if it is more than 200 feet away and the facility:
- Has good visual buffering like that described in the CEDS webpage Scenic Views & Land Development: Preserving Views from Your home & Other Favorite Places: https://ceds.org/view/, and
- Uses well-shielded lighting conforming to International Dark-Sky Association standards: https://www.darksky.org/our-work/lighting/lighting-for-citizens/led-guide/.
We occasionally get questions about whether to be concerned about people living in storage facilities. It appears that this is a rare occurrence that has generated attention because of a few isolated instances. One of the few surveys providing facts regarding this question indicates that it is rare for people to live in a storage facility unit: https://www.sparefoot.com/self-storage/blog/7099-how-common-is-living-in-a-storage-unit/.
Advice for preventing this problem is at: https://www.storable.com/resources/learn/homeless-self-storage/. One should also consider supporting programs to end homelessness beginning with making a donation to organizations such as the National Coalition for the Homeless: https://nationalhomeless.org/.
Contact CEDS at 410-654-3021 or Help@ceds.org if you are concerned about a proposed self-storage facility. We’ll be delighted to try and answer your questions free of charge. If research or other work is required to determine if a facility will harm you or your neighbors then we’ll provide our fee for carrying out a strategy analysis: https://ceds.org/strategy/.