Milford Planning Commission OKs storage facility

MILFORD — The city’s Planning Commission unanimously recommended that City Council approve plans for a 72,300-square-foot self-storage facility on South Dupont Boulevard abutting a protected wetland area on the Mispillion River.

“At one point, this property had a commercial site plan that was approved by the city years ago and has since expired, so the owners are now looking to sell it, and (First State Self Storage) is looking to develop this as a self-storage facility,” said Rob Pierce, Milford’s planning and economic development director, during the commission’s Tuesday night meeting.

He said the lot is “a 9-acre parcel on the east side of (U.S.) 113, about 350 feet south of the Del. 14 intersection. It’s bound on the north by the railroad easement and to the south by the Mispillion River.”

Mr. Pierce said Milford’s board of adjustment approved the plan’s variance from the zoning code’s wetland buffer standard at its Sept. 10 meeting.

“Other than the wetland buffer variance waiver, the plan in front of you meets the minimum requirements for the preliminary site plan application,” he said to the committee.

Mr. Pierce said the facility will contain a 1,200-square-foot office, which will also serve as a full-time residence for the on-site manager and is already zoned for C3, which permits large-scale highway commercial uses.

“The good news for this application is that it does not require a large amount of parking or generate a large amount of traffic as most of those permitted uses do,” said David Hutt, an attorney representing the property’s current owner and First State Self Storage, which intends to buy it.

“Placing this type of commercial use is probably one of the least intense impacts of any type of commercial use that could be placed into the C3 zoning district,” he said.

The conditional use application will eschew the zoning code by encroaching onto the Mispillion River’s protected wetlands, but the meeting’s attendees were more concerned about the development’s impact on nearby realty.

Thomas Passwaters, a Milford citizen, had some questions at the meeting. He owns and lives at a property off the frontage road on the south side of Northwest Front Street, bordering the proposed storage facility to the east.

Mr. Passwaters noted that, per the zoning code, he is entitled to a 15-foot buffer between his property and the development. On the plans presented Tuesday night, there was a spot where the buffer was just 11 feet wide.

“That’s something we would have them address,” Mr. Pierce said. “It looks like you’ve got plenty of room to move that turnaround back another 4 feet,” he said of the roadway in question.

“The other concern for me would be headlights shining at night,” Mr. Passwaters said. “I don’t know what kind of fence they’re going to build between the properties.”

Mr. Hutt said the barrier between the lot and neighboring areas would be extensive.

“To the south, you have that Mispillion River connection that I mentioned at the outset. Included with that is almost 3 acres of wooded and wetland areas that form a natural buffer,” he said.

“That buffer extends up to the property to the east that is a residentially zoned property with two residences on it,” Mr. Hutt said, “but there is going to be a wooded tree line there and then, of course, the proposed fencing.”

Charlie Bennett, an engineer working on the project, specified that a 6-foot vinyl privacy fence would lie between Mr. Passwaters’ property and the storage facility.

But a question asked by Commissioner Kathryn Stetson about the facility’s hours of operation ended up clarifying that traffic at the facility would be limited at night anyway.

The storage company’s owner, Bruce O’Heir, explained.

“I have three other facilities in Sussex County, and I use 7 in the morning to 7 at night operating hours for the gate,” he said.

“I may expand that to 6:30 until 9 at night, but it will not be 24 hours,” he said. “I just don’t like to have tenants in there at midnight, 1 o’clock, 2 o’clock in the morning. There’s really no reason for anyone to be on the site (during those hours).”

Reach staff writer Noah Zucker at nzucker@newszap.com