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Mini-storage restricted in Island County rural areas

Island County commissioners adopted an ordinance Monday that puts severe restrictions on the construction of mini-storage facilities in rural zones.

The new rules are in response to years of citizen complaints about mini-storage businesses being built near homes in the countryside.

Most recently, residents in the Rolling Hills area south of Oak Harbor unsuccessfully tried to prevent the permitting of a proposed, 17,000-square-foot mini-storage facility in their neighborhood.

The ordinance falls short of banning mini-storage facilities from the rural zone completely, but includes a series of requirements designed to protect residential neighbors from the unpleasant aesthetics, traffic and crime associated with such development. The ordinance doesn’t affect the rules for mini-storage in commercial zones.

“The purpose of the ordinance is to address the concerns of the community so their property rights aren’t infringed upon,” Commissioner Helen Price Johnson said.

Under the ordinance, mini-storage facilities can only be built in the rural zone on property that’s at least 10 acres. It requires 100-foot setbacks from roads and 50-foot setbacks from property lines, as well as an on-site caretaker residence. All structures must be screened.

In addition, the ordinance mandates security measures, including fencing, video surveillance and an alarm system.

The members of the planning commission unanimously approved the proposed ordinance. The planning department recommended approval.

Monday, South Whidbey resident Rufus Rose laid out a series of concerns with the ordinance and questioned whether the requirements should be so many and so cumbersome, which he called “a formula for defeat.” He pointed out that the 10-acre requirement means that only one-thirtieth of the property can be used for mini-storage.

“That seems like an extraordinarily small portion of the land,” he said.

The commissioners discussed Rose’s concerns and made a minor wording change in the ordinance, then unanimously voted to approve it.

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