- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Fairfax County is considering curbing the use of portable storage containers as residents complain that many of them are overstaying their welcome.

Companies such as PODS Enterprises Inc. of Clearwater, Fla., deliver 8-by-12-foot storage containers to customers’ homes for a monthly fee. Other storage container companies have joined the fray, including Pack Rat, Door to Door Storage and Moving, Box Cart and Mobile Mini Inc.

County residents have protested the spread of these temporary containers in their neighborhoods, saying they are unsightly and can make parking difficult.

“It brings down homeowner value,” said Patrick Gloyd, executive director of the Burke Centre Conservancy, a homeowners association in Fairfax County. “When these things are parked in driveways, they detract from the overall curb appeal.”

“It really is a parking issue,” said Ronda Desplinter, executive director of Kingstowne Residential Owners Corp., a homeowners association in nearby Alexandria.

“We are a townhouse neighborhood with limited parking, so problems are created when PODS are placed in parking areas,” Mrs. Desplinter said.

Moving and storage companies are also complaining about PODS, which stands for Portable On Demand Storage, claiming that temporary container companies have an unfair advantage because Fairfax County has few rules to regulate them.

That is not fair to local businesses that pay taxes and conform to county ordinances, said Bruce Jennings, owner of Fairfax City Self Storage and president of the Virginia Self Storage Association.

“They are eyesores and billboards right there in your neighborhood,” Mr. Jennings said. “It’s getting to be a huge problem.”

In a Fairfax County Planning Commission hearing held earlier this month, Mr. Jennings proposed a 72-hour limit on the storage of temporary containers and a requirement that container users obtain permits from the county.

“It isn’t a big problem today, but it might become one as more and more people start using PODS,” said Richard Sellers, president of U-Store, a self-storage company in Alexandria.

“They aren’t paying taxes [to the county] and we are, plus they’ve got those big signs on the side of their boxes,” he said. “There should be more control.”

Other competitors in the area said they don’t see PODS as a threat.

“Typically a lot of POD users are younger, don’t have children, and have time on their hands,” said Bud Morrissette, vice president of Interstate Van Lines, a traditional moving and storage company in Fairfax. “We cater to a market of larger households and families.”

Mr. Morrissette said large families prefer professional moving companies because they ensure the safety of their customers’ goods, and most POD-style companies don’t.

Montgomery County and the District already require permits for storage containers, and officials in Prince George’s and Prince William counties said they are considering regulating them.

Sharon Bulova, vice chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, said there are several reasons why the county should take steps to control storage containers.

“Permits would allow for the county to have a say in where a POD can be located, whether it should be moved to prevent traffic problems and how long a POD can stay on a property,” Mrs. Bulova said.

“We are happy to abide by and enforce any local rules in place,” said John Tompkins, a spokesman for PODS Enterprises Inc. “The issue has been raised because of people who have kept PODS on site for extensive periods of time.”

PODS Enterprises Inc. gives customers the option to store their containers on their property or at a storage facility. Many customers prefer to keep their PODS on site because the monthly fee is $20 less.

“We agree that it is reasonable to place limits on PODS so that there is not permanent storage use,” Mr. Tompkins said, “and we are happy to intercede and tell customers.”

The company hopes that the county will allow customers to rent PODS for longer than 30 days. “It seems reasonable,” Mr. Tompkins said. “Complaints have been almost non-existent.”

Mr. Tompkins said that when his company receives a complaint, PODS sometimes acts as a mediator to resolve differences between the customer and the homeowners association.

The planning commission deferred a decision at the Feb. 8 hearing and scheduled another meeting for Wednesday, when it will make a formal recommendation to the Board of Supervisors. The board will then consider whether regulations are necessary.

Mr. Jennings said he hopes the board will limit PODS businesses in the county, but admits that if regulations aren’t approved soon, “I might get into that business, too.”

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