Colton Declares Moratorium On Warehouses While Mulling Permanent Ban

With warehouse development in the Inland Empire continuing unabated and actually accelerating, the Colton City Council this week took a step toward limiting such development within the Hub City’s 16.04 square miles.
The action taken Tuesday, May 4 was temporary, and is to remain in effect 45 days until June 18. The council gave city staff direction to study the advisability and long term implication of allowing any remaining fast-depleting undeveloped land in the city to be converted into warehouses, distribution centers or similar uses. If staff has not completed by June 18 its findings on whether permitting more warehouse development in the city qualifies as a sensible land use strategy and what mitigations should accompany that type of development if it is allowed to occur, then the council indicated it could at that time extend the ban on further warehouse/distribution center development for another 10 months and 15 days, and for an additional year beyond that, if necessary.
Two warehouse projects that have already wended their way through the city’s application, land use evaluation, planning and building permit process will not be impacted by the moratorium.
A staff report authored by Colton Development Services Director Mark Tomich forwarded to the city council by City Manager Bill Smith states, “Several Colton Municipal Code sections authorize the establishment of warehouses, including within the industrial park zone (I-P), light manufacturing zone (M-1), heavy industrial zone (M-2), various overlay zones, and specific plan areas. However, due to the recent and rapid expansion of industrial developments within the city and neighboring communities, and particularly the development and expansion of warehouses, residents and businesses have experienced various adverse impacts related to these industrial developments, including incompatibility with adjacent uses, increased truck traffic, damage to local streets, loss of potential economic revenue, and deteriorating air quality and environmental health. In particular, the placement of these warehouses, distribution centers, and logistics facilities, including related uses and truck storage facilities within the city are a current and immediate threat to public health, safety, and welfare. As a result, the city requires time to study the adverse impacts of warehouses and truck storage facilities and develop comprehensive policy guidance to address the adverse impacts.”
The report defines warehouses as “any use for the conduct, business, or management of storing, safekeeping, freight forwarding, handling, keeping inventory, and/or distribution activities for any product or component, including but not limited to goods, wares, consumer products, materials, or merchandise, partially or wholly within an enclosed space, building, or other structure.”
Tomich’s report notes that “Logistics and industrial developments are an important part of the city’s, State, and national economy and provide both positive and negative impacts on the community. Currently, such developments, and in particular warehouses, have been in high demand due to the growing economy and decrease in vacant, developable land. The city’s zoning code, codified in Title 18 of the Colton Municipal Code, is dated and does not give the city adequate tools or assurances to address the issues created by warehouses. For example, there are not sufficient policies and standards that would prevent the siting a warehouse of significant size and height immediately adjacent to a residence or school.”
Additionally, according to the report, “Warehouse uses, by their nature, generate significant truck traffic that often occurs on a 24-hour and daily basis, based upon the needs of the business. Truck traffic can cause traffic congestion, detrimental air quality, noise, vibration, and disruption to the peace and quiet that is necessary for the enjoyment of residential neighborhoods and efficacy of educational uses. These trucks travel on truck routes as well as other streets to reach their destinations and pose unique and challenging traffic issues because of their sheer size, such as:
* Increased safety risk for smaller vehicles, pedestrians, and bicyclists;
* Damage to city streets and property/facilities from collisions (reported and unreported); i.e., street lights, traffic signal equipment, signs, trees, curbs, medians, etc.;
* Traffic congestion and reduced levels of service on streets and at intersections; and
* Increased impacts from improperly over-loaded trucks.”
Tomich noted that “Diesel engines emit a complex mixture of air pollutants, including both gaseous and solid material.” The solid material, Tomich said, is of the size “most associated with adverse health effects of the air pollutants that have ambient air quality standards. These health effects include cardiovascular and respiratory hospitalizations, and premature death.”
In addition, Tomich said, “The trucks also cause noise and vibrations when traveling on the roadways next to residential areas and educational uses. The increase in industrial developments, and particularly warehouses, in recent years and the resulting increase in truck traffic has most likely made the conditions worse for the residents and students who reside or go to school adjacent to major roadways and especially adjacent to truck routes.”
Tomich asked the city council to provide staff with an opportunity to “study and develop policy guidance to ensure there is logical relationship between the placement of warehouses and available truck routes to avoid the deleterious effects of routing trucks past sensitive uses. Without additional policy guidance, the establishment, expansion, and modification of warehouses and truck storage facilities pose an immediate threat to the public health, safety, and welfare. To avoid any further aforementioned adverse impacts, staff recommends that the city council consider adopting a moratorium on the establishment, expansion, or modification of warehouses and truck storage facilities that are located throughout the city. The moratorium would allow for a measured approach to study and develop appropriate policies and development standards to address warehouses.”
With Councilman John Echeverria absent, the council voted 6-to-0 to declare the moratorium.
Going forward over the next six weeks, Tomich and staff will endeavor to meet with landowners, businesses, residents, schools, and other elements of the community to hear their concerns relating to further warehouse development, examine the environmental and health impacts on the community from warehouses and truck-related uses to determine the mitigation measures necessary to better protect the community from those impacts, including siting criteria, distance separation, sound walls, alternative pavement materials to reduce noise, and programs related to improving community’s health.
Tomich and staff will also consider incompatibility issues between warehouses and other land uses, while looking at buffering between them, and the possible adjustment of hours of operations, and transitioning some industrial areas to alternative land uses. Staff will seek to identify currently existing warehouses that are legal non-conforming uses, no longer legal-non-conforming uses and illegally operating warehouses with a mind to phasing them out of operation. Staff will examine alternative pavement materials to reduce the long-term maintenance costs of roads heavily traveled by trucks and determine whether designated truck routes can be modified to provide the most efficient truck routes and ensure the best protection of the residential areas and educational uses. Staff will look at the characteristics of different types of warehouses to understand impacts and develop land use recommendations for various types of facilities, including cataloging the existing points of origin and destination for large trucks to formulate land use recommendations and preferences for locating large warehouses. Staff is to also evaluate existing and projected utilization and capacity of designated truck routes and non-designated truck routes, including providing so-called “last mile” recommendations for moving trucks on non-designated truck routes.
Staff will also perform a fiscal impact analysis to obtain a more accurate accounting of the revenues generated from warehouses to see if the money they provide to the city through taxes and other means exceeds the city’s costs for providing the city’s warehouses with services.

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