IW planners approve self-storage expansion in Carrollton

Published 4:12 pm Tuesday, July 19, 2022

After initially questioning the need for another self-storage business in the county, Isle of Wight’s Planning Commission gave W.C. Sawyer’s proposed 120,000-square-foot facility in Carrollton a unanimous favorable recommendation on June 28.

Sawyer, who already owns and operates the Sawco Self Storage facility on Carrollton Boulevard, applied in March for a zoning amendment that would allow him to open another less than a mile away on the same highway. The proposed Sawco expansion would be sited on 8 acres and include 468 rentable storage units and an additional 64 parking spaces for recreational and commercial vehicle storage.

The proposed site was previously rezoned in 2009 under the ownership of a private developer who had proposed at the time to build retail and office space. According to Amy Ring, the county’s community development director, the original conditions proffered by the previous developer had included a prohibition on mini-warehouses or self-storage units.

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Though Sawyer’s proposal had drawn support during the commission’s May public hearing on the matter, Commissioner Thomas Distefano questioned whether “market saturation” was an issue when Ring noted there were seven other self-storage facilities within a five-mile radius of the proposed site.

Ring clarified on June 28 that most market saturation studies focus on a three-mile radius, which in this case would leave only the Carrollton Mini Storage site on Brewer’s Neck Boulevard and Sawyer’s existing Sawco Self Storage facility on Carrollton Boulevard.

According to Ring, based on the 7,498 people reported in the 2020 Census as living in the Carrollton area, the proliferation of self-storage businesses in northern Isle of Wight has resulted in an average of just over 9 square feet of rentable storage per person compared to a state average of just over 5 square feet per person.

“However, there is quite a bit of pent-up demand,” Ring said, noting that only one of the seven sites in the five-mile radius had a unit available for renting.

“I can’t say exactly what might be driving the demand other than the density that’s being promoted throughout the county,” said Beverly Walkup, who retired as the county’s planning and zoning director in 2016 and has been helping Sawyer with his application.

With the higher density and smaller lot sizes being built in Isle of Wight County, “you don’t have enough property to park more than two cars,” Walkup said, noting many county residents also have boats and other vehicles.

“Commercial vehicles are also part of what drives this use because many localities have restrictions against parking commercial vehicles in residential areas,” Walkup added. “With the smaller lot sizes, you don’t have those storage units on your property anymore. … The lot sizes are so small, the house takes up most of the lot.”

Isle of Wight’s Board of Supervisors will hold its own public hearing on the matter July 21. The meeting begins at 6 p.m. in the boardroom of the county’s government complex at Monument Circle.