Gateway District planning to expand its vehicle storage business

Posted on February 18, 2019, 2:36 pm
6 mins

Every now and again, a member of Gateway’s Board of Supervisors will say something to remind everyone that running the Gateway Services District is like “running a business.”

Now it seems that one of the businesses operated by the GSCDD is going to quadruple in size. Specifically it’s little-known recreational vehicle storage business.

At some point in the past the district began allowing Gateway residents to park their recreational vehicles such as motorhomes and boats right beside the GSCDD’s main office building, for a fee. Every one of the approximately 21 spots have been rented at the storage facility for years, and there’s supposedly a waiting list a mile long to get in.

But with the district staff growing in size, they now need the land where the various boats and trailers are stored in order to construct a new temporary building to provide work space for the employees. You may recall that the GSCDD tried to purchase the old Girl Scouts Building, but that fell through. And for whatever reason (I haven’t really been paying much attention lately), the GSCDD can’t seem to get out of their own way and just build in the most obvious spot at the gigantic piece of land they own at the Gateway Commons Pool.

So for now … they’ve decided to build a temporary building at their existing location along Griffin Drive. Right where the the recreational vehicles are stored.

Rather than shutting down their 21-spot RV storage business, they’ve decided to relocate it to the unused piece of land at the Sherman Soccer Complex to the east of the Dog Park. And with the larger piece of land they’ve calculated that they can put up to 85 parking spaces.

By their math the facility would cost $560,000 to build and generate an operational profit of roughly $100,000 per year if they fill all the spots. At 60% capacity the facility would generate an operational profit between $50,000 to $60,000 per year. Those amounts only include the facility expenses, and do not include staff time spent over-seeing or maintaining the facility.

The district says they have 90 people on a waiting list to get in. So assuming half of them still need storage space and all 21 existing customers move over, that would be about 77% occupancy on day one. Not bad.

At this time, the plan seems to be to borrow most of the estimated $560,000 in building costs over 5 years, and whatever amount they come up short they would take it from the district’s reserve funds. This means that assessments would never go up to pay for the parking facility. Once the loan is fully repaid, then the reserve funds would be put back, and from that point on the GSCDD figures they’ll have a $50,000 to $100,000 year profit.

The one obvious question that needs to be asked is: should a local government entity be in the recreational vehicle storage business at all?

Some would argue no. Okay, many would argue no. I would argue no.

But it’s not as if they’re going to build more soccer fields on that land or some other kind of amenity to benefit the community. And I suppose those who aren’t in favor the district spending any money at all on soccer fields could look at this project as one way of offsetting the costs of the Sherman Complex to the residents.

So while some/many/I would feel as though the Gateway District shouldn’t even be in the recreational storage business, if they’re going to be in it they may as well make as much as they can at it. Goodness knows they’ve got the available space, and there does appear to be demand from Gateway residents for the service.

From what I can tell, four out of the five Supervisors are on board with the expansion plan. I believe Vice-Chairman Bill Guy objects to the concept mainly for the reasons noted above (that a government entity shouldn’t be offering vehicle storage services).

The plan is to put the construction costs out for bid later this month. If the bids come in close to their $560,000 estimate the board will likely green light the expansion.

If the bids are much higher than $560,000 and the cost-benefit is no longer sensible then the Supervisors could very well sour on the idea — and the owners of the 21 recreational vehicles already stored by the GSCDD may need to find new accommodations for their boats, motorhomes and trailers.

Editor of the Gateway Sun and owner of restaurant delivery service Florida Food Runner.

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