County Commissioner Lane Lynchard has requested a variance from zoning laws in the Heart of Navarre to build a self-storage business.
Lynchard and business partner Nadja Robles plan to build a storage unit facility along Highway 87 north of James M. Harvell Road. The 5.2-acre property is next door to Navarre Cross Fit.
The Zoning Board unanimously approved Lynchard’s request March 8, but the final decision rests with the Board of County Commissioners.
Lynchard, as representative for B and B Land Inc., applied for a conditional use permit to allow the storage business in the Heart of Navarre overlay district. He also applied for a variance to allow for use of metal or vinyl façade on the building.
This zoning overlay was put in place in 2004 to prohibit incompatible use and to encourage appropriate development within a certain area of Navarre in the hopes of creating a well-developed town center.
According to Lynchard, the facility will be all single-story indoor storage, most of which will be climate controlled. The parts of the structure visible from the road will have stucco or brick siding, and the facility will be surrounded by an 8-foot privacy fence.
“I plan to build something I can be proud of,” Lynchard said.
This would be one of six storage facilities in Navarre and one of 14 such businesses within a 10-mile radius. These include several boat and RV storage places in addition to self-storage units. Lynchard’s other self-storage business, Tiger Point Storage, is among that count.
According to Forbes Magazine, self-storage and mini-warehouses have a profit margin of 11 percent, making them among the most profitable types of small business.
Lynchard said there is not an oversaturation of these facilities, but rather a high demand.
“Occupancy rates at storage units in Navarre are high, so I think there is a demand with the influx of new residents and the homes that have been built,” he said. “The population has grown, and they need more services. Those services include storage along with shopping and groceries and everything else.”
Lynchard said he does not think the property in question really falls under what would be considered the Heart of Navarre, though it has been designated as such for 14 years.
“I think when most people think of the Heart of Navarre, they think about the intersection with 87 and 98 and then a small radius around there and then over to the beach bridge,” he said. “I think the entryway on 87 is more commercial than what is contemplated as the town center.”
Navarre Beach Area Chamber of Commerce President Tamara Fountain said she was disappointed to hear that the facility would be built in the Heart of Navarre.
Despite her general support for business growth, this decision runs counter to the best interests of the community, she said.
“If this is supposed to be our Heart of Navarre — if this is supposed to be our downtown — why would we approve a variance or conditional use?” Fountain said.
Fountain said this use is incompatible with the creation of a vibrant, walkable and bikeable community center.
Promotion of the Highway 87 corridor as an arts, culture and shopping destination was among the discussion topics for the chamber’s new Tourism Committee. The committee became aware of the decision shortly after its first meeting.
Fountain said if the community is coming together to work toward creating a downtown, the county should be following suit.
That is the purpose, in part, of the up to $150,000 District 4 Master Plan contract that commissioners, including Lynchard, approved in September. The Zoning Board’s conditional use approval comes just months before the county commissioners will hear suggested land use changes proposed under the Master Plan.
“It is irresponsible and shortsighted to give a variance or conditional use to everyone who asks, because it is incongruous to the overall goal,” Fountain said. “Variances from the county code should only be given if a serious hardship exists. They should be given with great care, and we are being really shortsighted to allow this.”
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