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Storage Ventures Testing Glassboro, N.J., Market

Self-storage facility projects are starting to stack up in Glassboro, N.J., despite being a type of commercial venture for which borough zoning does not specifically allow. Circumstances experienced by self-storage developers may shed light for rec-vehicle storage developers, who may have better opportunities for building RV and boat storage facilities in areas that are already inundated with self-storage. 

Two projects at widely separated sites were approved after public hearings before the Zoning Board recently. But one project had to overcome objections from an energized homeowners association and its lawyer to be granted a use variance and site plan approval.

The contested application was for a three-story building  — 10 feet taller than allowed — at 214 East High Street (Route 322). The neighborhood is in close walking distance of Delsea Drive, zoned for industrial and commercial uses, but also with many residential areas.

The project got its approvals on a 5-2 vote. Use variances require a super-majority of the board to approve them. One fewer “yes” vote would have denied a use variance.

“We don’t feel that the applicant has put on the necessary proofs for the relief that is requested,” the project’s attorney stated. “But also, we believe that this practically is not a good idea.”

Townhome community: Self-storage worst possible option

Boro Commons Vice President Joseph Reilly testified his group would rather see any other use allowed under borough zoning than the self-storage business.

Reilly said the project is a quality-of-life threat, looming over much smaller residential units and creating noise, trash and traffic issues. He stuck to his assessment under cross-examination by project attorney Kevin Diduch.

“Do you believe those (other) uses are more or less likely to create the same or similar issues?” Diduch asked. “Say this was not a ‘storage unit,’ but in fact an office complex of some sort?”

“Yeah,” Reilly said. “That would cut down on trash and noise. And the height of the building probably wouldn’t be 40-foot.”

“OK, so, to go from, say, two or three employees there a week to, say, 15 to 20 in an office complex with multiple units,” Diduch pressed. “You believe that would be less detriment to your trash concerns?

“Most likely, because the noise would also be less likely,” Reilly said.

The vacant property is only 5.71 acres. Property records show developer Vision 214 High QOZB LLC bought it in February.

The lot size was a factor in designing a 40-foot-tall building, not 30 feet, that needed a board variance. Total capacity is 115,572 square feet and 856 storage units of varying sizes, offering a better return-on-investment. A building within code would top out at about 75,000 square feet, according to testimony.

Planner: Glassboro doesn’t invite self-storage, doesn’t ban it either

Leah Furey Bruder, a professional planner for the developer, said there are no zones here where self-storage is an officially permitted use. But siting those facilities also does not conflict with the borough master plan or its ordinances, she said.

An artist rendering by Perry M. Petrillo Architects P.C. of a proposed self-storage building that a Matawan company, Vision 214 High QOZB Inc., wants to construct in Glassboro, N.J.

“It will make efficient use of a currently underutilized property,” Furey Bruder said. “And it will make high-quality storage space available to residents and businesses already in Glassboro or may come in the future.”

Board Solicitor John Alice stepped into the testimony at points. He agreed with Diduch that it was not accurate to say the borough had decided against self-storage facilities; simply they are not a listed use in the zoning ordinance.

“I can tell you, just because we’re at the board, you’re going to see more of these,” Alice said. “Self-storage is happening. And I think it’s driven by the university.”

The board in August 2022 approved a 37,370-square-foot facility on South Delsea Drive. A bakery was demolished to make room.

This article originally appeared on Cherry Hill Courier-Post.

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