WHAT DO you do if you want to build a controversial project, but you’re already 0-3 in front of the Metropolitan Planning Commission and the Zoning Board of Appeals?
Why, you just do an end run and go directly to Savannah City Council, of course.
Not only that — you double down and push for a total zoning change instead of a mere variance.
That’s what will happen this Thursday as a controversial five-story, 24-hour self-storage facility set for a residential area tucked off East Victory Drive will come before City Council, after having been outright denied twice and tabled a third time.
For a fourth time, many area residents and business owners will state their opposition and hope it will again be turned down.
Some of them call it a “mega-storage” facility, and that’s not much of an exaggeration.
At a little over 56 feet tall — a decorative cupola brings total height to 63 feet — the proposed building would be about the height of the Savannah Civic Center downtown.
It would be twice the height of the already-sizable Whole Foods store a stone’s throw away.
The proposed facility will take up a footprint three lots in area, butting up against not only single-family houses but several small businesses, all of which are in one-story buildings.
The litany of complaints includes increased crime, worsening drainage, and the lack of emergency vehicle access on constrained little Limerick Avenue.
Indeed, the main reason the project had been turned down previously is precisely because of the very limited access on a “collector street,” Limerick essentially dead-ending right where the self-storage facility would go.
The wholesale zoning change request, however, would render that objection moot.
Mostly though, the neighborhood opposition boils down to the sheer size of the self-storage facility, vastly out of proportion to anything else in this area alongside the Casey Canal/Truman Parkway corridor.
“My first concern is the building is just monstrous to be going in that area,” says Carolyn Beebe, who owns the property now rented by Oracle Elevator, on the eastside of the three-lot parcel.
“It’s a terrible area to put something that size where they want to put it.”
Beebe says she worries about congestion in the cramped area, which just has one way in or out.
“You’d have people driving in and out of that facility in rental trucks and cars all hours of the night. And if there’s a fire how would anyone ingress or egress?” she asks.
“This isn’t like The Stage On Bay situation, where you had a business that had done everything by the book the way they were supposed to. In this case, they want to completely change the zoning to allow this use," says Alderman Miller.
Jim Kelley owns Mo Hotta Mo Betta hot sauces, which would be literally overshadowed by the new facility.
“This thing will absolutely kill the value of the residential area next to it. It will add an awful lot of street traffic. We’ll see a crime increase because of the increased traffic,” Kelley says.
“And it’s just a great big eyesore — it’s completely inconsistent with the area it’s in.”
Jean Shatto owns a small business adjacent to the planned site. Her main concern?
“Crime, crime, crime,” she says.
“We already have enough problems back here. With that facility open 24 hours a day, no telling what will be going on.”
Shatto says there are all sorts of documented instances of questionable activities surrounding self-storage facilities.
“Sometimes people live in them, because they’re so cheap. Drugs and guns have been found. Sometimes police have even found meth labs being run inside them,” she says.
Alderman Julian Miller represents the adjacent Fourth District, and says he will vote against the project.
“Every call and message I’ve had from constituents is in opposition to this project, and the right thing to do is to represent the will of my constituents on this,” Miller tells us.
“This isn’t like The Stage On Bay situation, where you had a business that had done everything by the book the way they were supposed to,” Miller adds.
“In this case, they want to completely change the zoning to allow this use.”
However, he also warns against overemphasizing opposition just to this one particular project.
“The real issue is all kinds of development is coming to that corridor, regardless of whether this project goes through or not. There needs to be a more comprehensive overall plan to deal with it,” Miller says.
The alderman in whose district the project would reside, John Hall, has already stated his support for the construction.
Stewart Dohrman is organizing neighborhood opposition, and owns a home abutting the proposed site.
He has erected a sign 55 feet in the air in a tree over the house, to show graphically how high the self-storage building would be in real visual terms.
“Everyone here knows this is zoned for some type of commercial development. That’s not necessarily the problem. The problem is the zoning change they’re requesting would allow not only a self-storage facility, but other types of what are called ‘deleterious uses.’ Including adult entertainment and storage of huge motor coaches,” Dohrman says.
Kelley says he can’t quite understand why the project is getting such kid-glove treatment.
“Nobody objects to businesses creating jobs. But this is a huge building that will hardly create any jobs,” he says, referring to the fact that most self-storage facilities only employ one or two people on average.
“You could put one single-story 50x50 building over there in a different type of business and employ a lot more people. This thing is a huge waste of space.”
Jean Shatto also insists she’s not against job creation.
“I will fight for progress if it’s for the good of the community. But this isn’t progress and it isn’t good. And to allow anything in the neighborhood this height is just ludicrous.”