By Erica Wright
The Birmingham Times
The Birmingham City Council on Tuesday passed a temporary moratorium on the opening of new self-storage facilities in downtown.
The council voted unanimously to pass the ordinance which will halt the issuance of business licenses for six months. However, the ordinance leaves room for an additional three month moratorium if the council needs more time to evaluate current zoning.
The ordinance, which goes into effect immediately, does not affect existing facilities.
Members of the public were both in support and opposition to the ordinance.
Sherry Tobia, owner of Birmingham Restaurant Supply Company (BRESCO), in the 2400 block of 6th Ave. South said she was in favor of the moratorium to allow the city time to seek proper use of property.
“It (storage facilities) doesn’t bring in much sales tax or occupational tax when it’s being put in an area where the owners of property are trying to revitalize that area and bring in more revenue to the city,” she said.
Steve DeMedicis, owner of Iron City Birmingham, between 6th Ave. South and 22nd St. South, agreed that storage facilities add no value to the area.
“A self-storage unit brings in no taxes on the fees for self-storage, they bring minimal employees and maybe the worst thing they bring is just a blank slate to a city block where we’re trying to incorporate people walking, living and the density downtown,” said DeMedicis. “. . . We’re not opposed to self-storage but not in a place with walking, living and working density.”
Mike Bell, executive vice president of ADEVCO Corporation, which is the developer of the property, said the facility is a $10 million investment and better than what people might think.
Self-storages have come a long way in the last 10 years in terms of quality and image.
“It’s not just a static building, it’s a nice looking property,” he said. “It’s not going to reduce any property values and does not employ a lot of people but part of the plan is to add retail to the ground floor frontage on both (24th Street and 6th Avenue South) and we could probably add 10,000 to 15,000 square feet of retail, which if you’re walking the streets would be like any other shopping center along that general area.”
Bell argued that a moratorium could affect the city’s ability to attract future economic development.
“This throws a lot of cold water on our future investment into Birmingham if this is the way we’re going to be treated when we buy an entitled site. This area of town cannot be exclusive entertainment, there is going to be other uses in the market,” said Bell.
Councilors said the moratorium would give the city time to plan strategically for growth.
“As a city we must become more cognizant of our long-term plans so I think that we may need to have some additional time to be able to look and see what we want this area to become,” said Councilor Clinton Woods “… we need to have a more well-rounded approach to how we’re planning long-term and how new developments fit into that. We want to make sure it’s reflective of what we want to see and will spur growth moving forward in our city center.”