It may be time to make room for another personal storage business in Freeland: An Anacortes builder has filed for permits to build a mini-storage facility on Highway 525.
Ralph Palmer wants to build a storage facility on the north side of Highway 525, across from Landshapers, north of Bush Point Road in Freeland.
The development would include eight, two-story storage buildings, an office building and a paved roadway alongside the storage buildings. A storm-water retention pond would extend along the east edge of the developed area.
The development application includes a plan for landscaping along the east property line and along Highway 525, with a mix of new plantings and native vegetation.
County development regulations prohibit storage buildings larger than 17,000 square feet. Palmer’s proposal is to short plat his property into two parcels, and split the storage buildings between the two.
Palmer said a market exists for more storage facilities on South Whidbey, partly based on calls he made to existing businesses that offer storage services.
“There’s definitely a demand for it. The storage units are basically running at capacity,” he said.
That leaves people with the choice of going to Coupeville or Mukilteo, or waiting until the end of the month in the hopes that a storage space will open up. Palmer said he had heard that some facilities have waiting lists.
Residents will see another benefit once his business is open, he added.
“As you have more storage units, it helps prevent rates from inflating because there’s more competition,” he said.
Palmer bought the property in September 2005 for $160,000 from Kirk-Lucke Land Co. of
Des Moines, Wash., which has owned the land since the late 1970s. The 9-acre property is zoned rural and is undeveloped.
Palmer originally proposed a larger storage business on the property. County planning officials told him that the total square footage of his project — roughly 79,000 square feet — would violate county rules because it would leave too much of the property covered with impervious surface, and one of the storage units was sitting in the 30-foot setback from Highway 525.
Palmer acknowledged that storage-unit proposals have not been particularly popular in the Freeland area. He has heard of the controversies surrounding both the A-OK Mini Storage — which some Freeland residents are still sore about — and the more recent attempt to build condo-style garages for recreational vehicles on the corner of Highway 525 and Mutiny Bay Road. The county rejected the condo-style storage proposal because it did not fit with the property’s current zoning.
“I’m not a developer that does storage units,” Palmer said.
“It’s a long-term project for me, for the family. It’s where I plan on living,” Palmer said, adding that he will eventually build a home on the property.
The proposed project would include the potential for two single-family homes on each lot. Palmer said it’s doubtful the homes would be sold, because that would also require the sale of the storage units that sit on the same parcel.
Palmer said his development will not be an eyesore.
“There’s a berm I’m going to build that will also hide the storage units,” he said.
The berm will be landscaped when finished and other native vegetation will be retained, and the slope of the property will also make the development hard to see.
“You’re going to see a nice office building in the front that’s set back. Most of the units will not be able to be seen very easily from the road,” Palmer said.
“They’re not going to be sitting out on the highway as an eyesore,” he said.
Palmer said if the permit process goes smoothly, it could potentially wrap up in two months. In an optimistic scenario, construction could finish next year and the business could open in 2008, he said.
Palmer said he will build the project in phases. The first four storage buildings will not be heated.
Heated storage units are most popular with people who are storing things such as antique furniture, or paper items. Palmer said he did not know how great the demand would be on the South End for heated storage units.
“I’ll build my first four buildings and then assess whether I should put in heated buildings,” he said.
Palmer will also determine if additional buildings should be reconfigured with smaller storage spaces, or larger ones, based on the demand he sees after the first phase is built.