Scottsdale Independent

Storage wars: Scottsdale residents challenge proposed storage building

Neighbors to the east of this lot are wary of a proposed two-story storage facility. (photo by city of Scottsdale)

 

Editor’s Note: Just before 11 a.m. on Nov. 7, Bell Group Self Storage’s representative, Jordan Rose of Rose Law Group emailed the Independent stating as a result of the recent hearing, the applicant will be forgoing its height request.

“I wanted to let you know that as a result of the P&Z hearing we heard the two neighbors abutting the storage site and withdrew our height request,” Ms. Rose said in her email. “We will develop with the currently permitted height (18 feet as measured by Scottsdale Code).  We are happy to take that issue off the table and glad the neighbors gave us the opportunity to hear that concern and react to it.” 

Ms. Rose says her applicants are now proposing to develop the storage facility under the same design standards that exist for the currently approved office building.

The innate appreciation for sunsets embedded deep within the human psyche appears to have persuaded some members of the Scottsdale Planning Commission, where an ordinary storage facility application impassioned a north Scottsdale community.

On Oct. 25, many members of a north Scottsdale residential neighborhood spoke out against an application for a two-story, 106,224-square-foot storage facility seeking a major General Plan amendment.

The Scottsdale Planning Commission heard the case, before ultimately continuing the issue to its Wednesday, Nov. 8 meeting.

The meeting, held at City Hall, 3839 N. Drinkwater Blvd., yielded many residents voicing their opinion loud and clear: a two-story facility will disturb their accustomed quality of life.

Bell Group Self Storage’s application, presented by local attorney, Jordan Rose of Rose Law Group, seeks a land-use designation change from “rural neighborhoods” to “commercial” on 2.8 acres of a 4.6 acre site on the southeast corner of Shea Boulevard and 116th Street.

Additionally, the applicant seeks a zoning district map amendment for service residential to neighborhood commercial on the 4.6 acre site.

Many of the public speakers spoke of their distaste for the height, in addition to questioning the need for more storage facilities, their home values and the surprise of the project for some.

The first two public speakers of the meeting, Dana and Vickie Falen — one of the two homeowners whose backyard abuts the property-of-topic — most passionately attested losing their beloved Arizona sunsets, a story that Commissioner Larry Kush commended.

Dana Falen enjoys watching the sunset every evening from his backyard. (submitted photo)

“I would really like to be able to stay where I’m at, and do the things I’ve been able to do now,” Mr. Falen said. “I’d just like to ask that it stays that way, I really don’t have much else to say, but I would really — I don’t want to go backwards, I want to go forward.”

Clenching a thick white 8-by-10-inch-framed photograph, Mrs. Falen presented an image of her husband sitting in their backyard watching the sun set.

“This is our home, we built our home and finished it in 1999,” she said. “We enjoy our backyard, it’s going to be taller than the boarder wall — that’s going to be my backyard.”

Ms. Falen says their neighborhood met four times, and Ms. Rose never attended their meetings.

“What my husband was trying to say, he has no use of the six activities of daily living — he’s been hurt over 41 years — this is what he does every single night,” she said. “He goes in our backyard to look at sunsets.”

Forty-one years ago, on the night that Dana proposed to Vickie, the tire of his pick-up truck blew out. The result left him as a paraplegic.

“She married him, and she said, ‘you know, my husband loves the sunsets,’” Mr. Kush said, re-telling Mr. and Mrs. Falen’s love-story.

“So, I have a little bit of a reputation of being kind of difficult on this, but not tonight. I have to go with the wishes of some homeowners who really have some serious concerns, it’s really hurting them badly. I can sense their hurt… I don’t want to be involved in hurting them, so I’m not going to be supporting this tonight.”

The application received disapproval from other members, Christian Serena, Kelsey Young and Prescott Smith.

“I’m in the same spot as Commissioner Kush, as that I’m kind of torn as to what to say about this proposal,” Mr. Smith said. “I’ve discussed with both sides of the fence, no pun intended. There’s clearly a disconnect between neighborhood and applicant.”

Storage proposal

City of Scottsdale staff representatives, Project Coordination Liaison Sara Javoronok and Senior Planner Bryan Cluff presented the project at the onset of the Oct. 25 meeting.

The lot along Shea Boulevard and 116th Street requires a major General Plan amendment due to change in land-use classification, city officials say.

Bell Group Self Storage is seeking a 20-foot, two-story building with a basement that would be an air-conditioned 700-unit facility on a site that has been vacant for 18 years, according to Ms. Rose.

There are five storage facilities within five miles of the subject site; two of the closest facilities are directly north of the site within 1,500 feet, a city staff report states. One of the facilities contains approximately 750 units, and has a vacancy rate of 4 percent, the report states.

Three prior open houses have been held by the applicant or the city, in June and September, city staff notes.

The proposed project is said to be low-scale, compared to a charter school, day care or office building that could be built instead, Ms. Rose contends.

Jordan Rose

Specifically, traffic for the facility is expected to be very minimal compared to other uses, she said, noting the need for storage in Scottsdale.

“The Bells hired a national consultant, and the national average is 6.82 square feet of storage per person, and Scottsdale has just 4.83-square-feet storage per person,” she said. “The area population demand is 10-square-feet per person. The four other storage sites within three miles are well above average occupancy rate.”

The developers of the storage facility are George Bell senior and George Bell junior. They are in escrow to own the land after their zoning case is resolved.

In addition, the applicants are willing to deed-restrict the site, which restricts the land-use to storage unless approved by the two adjacent neighbors, and is proposing no lighting on the east and south sides of the building.

Scottsdale Planning Commission Staff Representative Tim Curtis says security lighting probably will need to be included on all-sides of the building, however.

Ms. Rose says she had unsuccessfully attempted to contact both of the homeowners abutting the property, and received a letter at the end-of-the day Oct. 25, from the homeowners association’s lawyers.

George Bell senior says he has lived in Scottsdale since 1969. He is a broker and has developed a lot of industrial product, he says.

He coined his proposed facility as state-of-the-art, and noted some of the hurtful things some residents said during public comment.

“It really kind of upsets me, we’re not dumping dirt on your property there,” he said. “We’ve got a guy who put up an illegal tower on someone else’s property, so don’t impugn my integrity. I’m here to build something nice, and you really hit me.”

Mr. Bell says his storage facility would be manned from around 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., and would be high security, with 40-50 security cameras.

“It’s light traffic, and by God it’s the best thing you’d ever get built on this property next to you, and I wish you guys would understand,” he passionately refuted to the neighbors.

Planning Commissioner Larry Kush (Independent Newsmedia/Josh Martinez)

Difficult decision

Many members of the Scottsdale Planning Commission appeared to appreciate and understand the concerns of the residents.

Mr. Kush says this case has him feeling more torn than most zoning cases.

“We’ve had a lot of controversial cases, and I’ve never had a problem picking a side, that never happened to me,” he explained. “Tonight it’s difficult.”

Mr. Bush is a quality person, Mr. Kush said, noting that he has known him for 30 years. Following the Great Recession, Mr. Bush is trying to get things going again, the Commissioner said.

“Jordan Rose and her firm put on probably the best slide presentation I’ve ever seen — George, you got your money’s worth,” Mr. Kush said.

“Then I go to the other side, I met the folks, a couple of people opposing this, at my office this week, and the one thing I asked myself when we were meeting is if I lived in their home would I want this in my backyard? The honest answer is, ‘no, I wouldn’t.’”

Planning Commissioner Kelsey Young agrees with Mr. Kush, she said.

“Like Larry said, I know I wouldn’t want it in my backyard,” she said.

Commissioner Kevin Bollinger says he thinks the residential views may be going away eventually.

“Either way it’s going to go away because the land is there, it’s going to have a building built,” he said. “It’s an opportunity, in my mind, to see Mr. Bell taking as much care and stipulation, a lot of trees, open space, desert dwellers, the car total is 150 vs. 850, that still to me is an opportunity.”

The items are scheduled for City Council’s Dec. 5 meeting — where General Plan changes are only allotted to come across council’s dais but once a year.

The item was continued by a vote of 5-1, with Ms. Young dissenting. Commissioner Alessio was absent.

The Nov. 8 meeting is scheduled for 5 p.m. at City Hall.