Birmingham City Council

Self-Storage Developers Need Not Apply; Council Says Birmingham Is Off-Limits

Birmingham City Council. (Source: Sam Prickett)

The Birmingham City Council voted Tuesday to place a temporary moratorium on new self-storage, mini-warehousing developments in the city.

The ordinance halts all city involvement in the development of those facilities — including permitting and zoning — except in areas already zoned as M-4 (Planned Industrial) or I-4 (Industrial Park) districts.

The purpose of the ordinance, proposed by District 5 Councilor Darrell O’Quinn, would be to allow time for the completion of the city’s framework plan, which could result in some areas being rezoned. Because self-storage facilities do not have many employees and do not generate much sales tax, O’Quinn told BirminghamWatch last week, they “thus do not contribute to increasing density and vibrancy of a downtown (area).”

“The central business district is an important economic engine for the city of Birmingham,” he said. “We need to be intentional about making the best use of our downtown properties.”

While several local business owners spoke at Tuesday’s meeting in favor of the moratorium, it encountered opposition from several developers in the process of starting self-storage units, with one developer’s attorney suggesting that a lawsuit might result from the moratorium.

This prompted Mayor Randall Woodfin to speak up, telling the council that he “(does) not appreciate anybody coming up here threatening us,” and arguing that the council was well within its authority to enact the moratorium. “This is not aimed at one property,” he said. “This is not aimed at one property owner. We’re bigger than that. … This is temporary to make sure that, long-term, we do things that work for our city.”

As approved, the moratorium will last for 180 days, with the option for a 90-day extension. The framework plan for the Northside/Southside area is currently being drafted, and the city is scheduled to share a draft of the plan with the public this fall.