By Kevin Boneske
HOWARD – After several minutes of discussion Monday, June 18, the Howard Plan Commission recommended eliminating mini-warehouses as a conditional use in the I-1 General Industrial Zoning District.
But action was tabled on implementing standards for them as a conditional use in both the I-3 Industrial Park Light Industry Zoning District and the I-4 Industrial Park Heavy Industry Zoning District.
Commission members favored amending the village code to no longer allow mini-warehouses being built in I-1 areas, but held off updating the standards for I-3 and I-4 areas for further review beyond the proposed language.
That includes a front-yard setback of 75 feet if mini-warehousing is a principal use, requiring parking lots to be asphalt or concrete and having the buildings match the principal structure if one is present.
Village Director of Community Development Dave Wiese said the proposed zoning amendments he presented to the commission were in response to a change in state law making it more difficult for communities to enforce conditional use approvals, unless a local unit of government has standards or plans in place related to those permits.
“We’re going to look at all our uses in all our zoning districts and see what we have for conditional uses and if we should be establishing standards,” Wiese said. “But the hot button seems to also be mini-warehousing. We’ve got numerous requests coming in for additional mini-warehousing.”
Wiese said there is concern from village staff and some elected officials even though mini-warehousing owners in Howard have been maintaining their properties.
“Mini-warehousing doesn’t create jobs, it doesn’t use really any infrastructure, utilities, and you don’t get a high tax base, usually, from mini-warehousing,” he said.
Wiese said there is a need for mini-warehousing in the community, but he also expressed concerns about a proliferation of it negatively affecting overall property values.
In the three industrial districts, where most mini-warehousing and storage units are located, Wiese said a conditional use permit can no longer be denied under the change in state law unless a “reasonable standard” is in place.
“If it’s not a reasonable standard, the applicant is still entitled to the use itself, the conditional use permit,” he said. “Say someone came in with a location where we weren’t really happy they were going put mini-warehousing – in a high retail location where we thought maybe it’s going to be a commercial shopping center – if they want to do mini-warehousing, can we outright deny it? No.”
Village President Burt McIntyre said once mini-warehousing is built, it defines the area where it is constructed.
“You’re not going to have anybody come around and start putting quality construction adjacent to these things because you have some of these mini-warehouses taken care very well, the grass is cut, they’re always in decent repair, but that’s not a guarantee it’s going to stay that way,” McIntyre said. “That’s my biggest concern. I don’t want to see these things going up and then lose the potential of a higher level of construction.”
Though the future construction of mini-warehouses in areas zoned I-1 could be prohibited if the amendment receives final approval from the village board, Wiese said those who own property with that zoning classification could still build them there if the land is rezoned I-3 or I-4 along with approval of a conditional use permit.
Al Williams, who is interesting in constructing mini-warehousing on land he owns zoned I-1 at the north dead end of Russett Court, appeared before the commission to ask how the zoning amendment could affect him.
Wiese said Williams wouldn’t need to have his property rezoned if he applied for a conditional use permit before the amendment on mini-warehouses received final approval by the village board, which has its next meeting scheduled for June 25.