HANCOCK COUNTY – Planning authorities and a self-storage business looking to expand hope to come to terms on the aesthetic impact the development would have on a gateway into New Palestine.
StoreNow, which owns and operates self-storage facilities in and surrounding Indianapolis, wants to grow its New Palestine Self Storage location, located at the northeast corner of U.S. 52 and CR 400W. The company seeks to expand onto the just over 3 acres it owns immediately to the east.
Plans filed with the county propose eight new storage buildings totaling nearly 40,000 square feet, as well as a nearly half-acre dry pond.
Russell Brown, a lawyer representing StoreNow, said at a Hancock County Area Plan Commission meeting this week that the expansion would approximately double the size of the company’s location outside of New Palestine. That site has limited vacancy, he said, as do others in StoreNow’s portfolio. He added self-storage facilities are low-traffic generators and low-utility users. New Palestine Self Storage’s assessed value is about $900,000, Brown continued, adding the assessed value of the land it’s looking to expand on is about $6,000.
The proposed expansion area currently has a residential zoning designation, and StoreNow is asking the county to rezone it to a commercial one to allow for the development. New Palestine Self Storage is accessible off of CR 400W and the expansion would not require new road cuts.
Kayla Brooks, county planning director, noted the future land use map in the county’s comprehensive plan envisions mixed uses along the U.S. 52 corridor, and that commercial is an acceptable zoning designation for that future land use.
“It does not encourage outdoor storage,” she continued. “If so, it’s recommended that it be heavily screened. It really envisions more of a true mixed-use area that attaches a variety of different commercial uses, mixing in residential and more walkable uses. However, this is an existing use of mini storage, and it’s extending into this fairly small lot that is next door to it, and is probably a more realistic view of our mixed-use corridor, at least at this time.”
As a condition of the rezone, Brooks suggests requiring the expansion to comply with the county’s overlay architectural standards for buildings visible from U.S. 52 and the currently undeveloped property to the east. Rather than a chain-link fence, which surrounds the existing storage buildings, Brooks suggests a buffer, more decorative fence and perhaps an upgraded facade material on at least the buildings that are visible.
Brown said at the meeting that it was the first time he had seen those suggested conditions and that one that left him concerned was the one regarding decorative fencing. He recalled a similar project in central Indiana at which wrought iron fencing was used, and that it was discovered that stolen construction materials were being passed through the gaps in the fencing resulting in losses of hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Brown said he did not have the authority to agree to the condition and expressed a desire for more time to confer with StoreNow and talk with county planning staff about what would be considered decorative fencing.
It’s an important condition for Scott Wooldridge, who serves on the plan commission and represents New Palestine and the surrounding area on the Hancock County Council.
“This is the gateway into New Pal,” he said, adding storage units are “not a great impression. But if you have the decorative fencing, I mean at least that hides it a little better. That’s a concern.”
Larry Sedam, a Hancock County resident and frequenter of plan commission meetings, agreed.
“I think we need to adhere to our standards,” he said.
The plan commission continued the matter to its Feb. 21 meeting. It’s scheduled for 6:30 p.m. at the Hancock County Annex, 111 American Legion Place, Greenfield.