October 8 2020

Town Meeting Approves Article Banning New Self-Storage Businesses

By: Rich Hosford

Burlington will no longer allow the development of self-storage unit businesses in town thanks to a Town Meeting warrant article that passed almost unanimously.

The article was proposed by Precinct 7 members Betsey Hughes and Dave Webb and was placed on the warrant by the Board of Selectmen. Hughes spoke on the article to the legislative body and began with some background about the self-storage industry.

“According to the BisNow (a publication for real estate news) and the Self Storage Association, for income producing real estate, self-storage is one of the easiest, least expensive and highest yielding types of property with high returns, low maintenance and employing only one on-site manager,” she said. “The land that is used is usually not desirable for other development such as office buildings or apartments, building costs are low with little plumbing, concrete floors with no windows, no trim etc. and almost completely free from maintenance. Tenants move into the units with no involvement or oversight from the onsite manager once they sign the contract and move out with no effort on the part of the owner and if they don’t pay, their things are auctioned and the unit rented to another tenant.”

Hughes explained that one such business, Jumbo Self Storage, purchased property on Blanchard Road on a piece of land that most thought was undevelopable and, because there was no reason to deny them in the bylaws, were approved to build a five story, 1,000 unit storage facility. She said given Burlington’s push for high-end, technologically advanced companies, these businesses do not fit with the direction the town wants to go.

“From a community perspective, Self-Storage facilities tend to be unattractive, cannot be reused for other purposes should they fail and they devalue neighboring sites,” she told Town Meeting. “The town of Burlington has gone to great lengths to attract Biotech companies, corporate headquarters and the development of premier office space. Why would we continue to allow land to be used by a business that detracts from those efforts?”

It seemed the other Town Meeting members agreed with her. With not a single question asked or counterpoint made they voted to change the zoning bylaws to first add a definition of Self Storage facility and then to change the Retail, Consumer and Trade Use Table to make new businesses of this kind not allowed. The final vote was 82-5.


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