The number of self-storage facility proposals, such as the one planned here in the 29000 block of Pacific Highway, has prompted a one-year ban of those developments in Federal Way. ANDY HOBBS, the Mirror

Federal Way City Council imposes one-year moratorium on new self-storage facilities in city

A dramatic increase in the number of applications and pre-applications for self-storage facilities in the city has prompted the Federal Way City Council to put a halt on these types of projects for at least a year.

At Tuesday’s regular meeting, the City Council suspended the rules and passed an ordinance after the first reading that imposes a one-year moratorium on the expansion or creation of new self-storage facilities in the city to give planners time to study the matter.

Councilwoman Susan Honda cast the only dissenting vote, stating she supported a six-month moratorium but not one year.

Federal Way Planning Manager Robert “Doc” Hansen told the council the recommendation stems from city staff seeing a noticeable uptick in self-storage facility proposals in the last 10 months, with 10 applications and pre-applications submitted.

“We don’t really know why this is happening,” Hansen said.

Currently, four project applications are “vested” and will proceed through the building and zoning process. The five proposals that were in the pre-application stage and any new ones presented are halted for the next year.

Hansen said Federal Way has nine storage facilities at the moment, which staff calculated came out to be approximately 4,731 units, based on the average 10-foot-by-10-foot storage unit commonly found. The four vested facilities right now that will still be processed will add approximately 3,700 units.

“That’s about 80 percent of what we already have,” Hansen said Tuesday. “The additional ones would add that much more.”

Based on calculations that factor estimated number of units and current households in Federal Way, including multi-family, the city was on track to have the number of storage units grow from one for every eight houses to one for every three, Hansen said.

He said not only are the number of storage unit facilities applications rising, some of the facilities proposed are a break from traditional storage buildings in the city.

Hansen said, rather than being temporary “place-holders” designed to allow property owners to make some profit until a better use came along with the new market, the new facilities are “higher end” and more permanent in nature as well as larger — with some intended to feature two or three stories as opposed to the traditional one-story building.

Hansen also said the new facilities are being proposed for areas intended for other uses — business commercial and neighborhood business zones designed to be neighborhood shopping and business hubs.

In his presentation, Hansen explained the moratorium would give city staff time to look at what other jurisdictions are experiencing and what they have done to mitigate these issues.

He said he would also like to see what the demand for new self-storage facilities really is and how many are currently vacant.

If possible, Hansen said he would like city staff to also get a better idea of whether the self-storage facilities in Federal Way are accommodating local residents or are more regional in demand.

Community Development Director Brian Davis said, based on preliminary analysis conducted, he suspects other cities have a more involved process when allowing self-storage facilities, whereas Federal Way does not at the moment, which might account for why the city is seeing so many new proposals.

“So, it’s real easy in Federal Way to get self-storage units,” Davis said.

Davis said, one possible outcome of this moratorium is that the city won’t restrict or limit future self-storage units, but instead it would create a more in-depth, thorough process for evaluating new proposals, factoring in the compatibility of the new facilities and whether they are meet the intended zoning and neighborhood uses.

“We’re not trying to get rid of self-storage units,” Hansen added. “We’re trying to see how they fit in within the community.”

Hansen also assured the council that other cities have taken similar steps dealing with self-storage facilities. The city of Poulsbo imposed a moratorium on them just last week, and one is already in place in Shoreline.

A public hearing on the moratorium is scheduled for the Oct. 17 City Council meeting.