I need a little help regulating outdoor storage.
Like many places, my community has a number of convenience stores, grocery stores, and other retailers that keep soft-drinks, firewood, ice machines and other similar items outside of their buildings (both beneath and outside of canopies). We recently modified our regulations pertaining to "outdoor storage." In our commercial areas no longer allow "outdoor storage" without first obtaining a Special Use Permit. This applies to any business moving forward (existing businesses are treated as legal non-conforming uses).
Our ordinance defines outdoor storage "the keeping, in an unenclosed area, of any goods, junk, material, merchandise, or vehicles in the same place for more than twenty-four hours." It is my understanding that this is a typical definition. Our regulations permit retail display, but do not specifically define it.
We interpreted this situation to mean that anything that stayed for more than 24 hours would be considered outdoor storage requiring a special use permit. Anything outside for a period less than 24 hours would be considered allowable retail display.
A large retailer wanted to keep soft drinks containers (not drink machines, but 12-packs of drinks) outside all the time. They appealed the Planning Department's interpretation to the Zoning Board of Appeals. The ZBA subsequently overturned staff's decision noting that they felt this was permissible “retail display”.
The City Council wishes to prohibit such outdoor display/storage. Now I need to modify our regulations to accomplish this. The obvious way would be to simply better define “retail display.” But I want some input from other communities. How have you handled this situation? Any suggestions would be helpful.