Developer plans Harbeson mini-storage units

Zoning change needed for builder to get financing
This is a portion of an 8-acre parcel along Route 9 in Harbeson where a developer wants to build mini-storage units. BY RON MACARTHUR
January 22, 2013

A developer has plans for a large mini-storage facility in Harbeson, but he says to build it would require a zoning change. Mark Schaeffer of Central Storage @ Harbeson LLC is seeking a zoning change for an 8-acre parcel from AR-1, agricultural-residential, to CR-1, commercial-residential.

Schaeffer said he plans to construct 25 buildings in phases totaling 60,000 square feet on 8 acres of land about 500 feet west of the Route 9-Route 5 intersection. The project would also contain an office and residence for a live-in manager. Half of the units would be climate controlled.

The project is a scaled-down version of one to which he received conditional-use approval in 2009.

Schaeffer told commissioners that he was unable to obtain additional financing for the project because it was not zoned commercial. He said a banker told him that morning that he had money to lend, but not for a conditional-use project. “He told me to get it rezoned and call him back,” Schaeffer said.

“The reality is the project can't be financed as a conditional use,” said his attorney Gene Bayard.

Commissioner Mike Johnson said the zoning change has the potential to open doors to other commercial ventures.

Schaeffer says he has a 25-year track record of opening mini-storage units and bought the property with that intent. He operates units in Dover, Milford and Long Neck.

Johnson said more and more developers are running into the same situation with financing. “This is an issue perhaps the commission and county council should talk about,” Johnson said. “For this original approval there were 15 stipulations; with a zoning change we don't have that opportunity except for the site plan review.”

In three letters to the commission, residents were concerned about traffic, fencing and buffers. In answer to the letters, Schaeffer said he plans to provide fencing and a landscaped buffer around the units.

And as far as traffic is concerned, Schaeffer said mini-storage units do not generate traffic. He was not required to provide a traffic impact study as part of Delaware Department of Transportation approvals as long as the project did not generate more than 200 vehicle trips per day or 50 trips during any given hour. “If we get 20 vehicles a day, we would hitting a home run,” he said.

Schaeffer said the project would help clean up the area. “In my professional opinion this area and corridor are trending to commercial, and I think the county's comp plan supports that,” he said. “This will enhance property values.”

He also said the demand for storage units in the area was high with the closest units available in Long Neck.

Sussex County Council has scheduled a public hearing on the application for 1:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 5, in the county administration building on The Circle in Georgetown.