Campbell River city staff not backing down on container ban

City planner said in a report that far more people dislike the shipping containers than it may appear

The great shipping container debate has returned to city hall.

City staff were recommending council, at its Tuesday meeting, proceed with restricting the use of shipping containers to industrial-zoned properties only and host a second public hearing.

Chris Osborne, city planner, said in a report to council that far more people dislike the shipping containers than it may appear.

“It is not unexpected that those most affected by the proposed bylaw would not be in favour of it and hence encourage council to proceed no further,” Osborne wrote in his report. “To place feedback to date in context, in a community of 32,000 people and over 2,000 businesses, approximately 25 have voiced opposition to the bylaw; nearly all of whom have indicated that they use shipping containers in some capacity.”

Osborne noted that in contrast, the city’s two commissions, which are made up of members of the public and are designed by council to gather input from the broader community, are both recommending council proceed with the bylaw. Osborne said the bylaw was drafted in response to “numerous complaints” received from the public that the shipping containers are eyesores.

The city is trying to control the problem by restricting their use to just industrial sites and banning them from industrial and residential properties unless they are being used as temporary storage on building sites. Osborne said applications to use containers would also be looked at on a case by case basis.

But business owners who use them for storage purposes say it will hurt their business because they will be forced to build expensive, timely additions which many can’t afford.  Those owners, many of whom operate in the Campellton area, relayed that message to Osborne at a public meeting Nov. 13. That meeting followed a July public hearing on restricting shipping containers which saw at least 10 people voice their opposition to the proposed bylaw and one speak in favour. That prompted council to hold off on adopting the bylaw until first consulting with the city’s business community – the majority of shipping container users. That consultation came in the form of November’s public meeting at the Enterprise Centre across from city hall.

At that meeting, business owners again voiced their frustration and concern, but Osborne questioned how representative their feelings are of the entire community.

“It is important to note that most attendees represented interests focused in Campbellton rather than the broader community,” Osborne wrote. “Both functionally and geographically, attendance therefore represented only a narrow section of the community with a particular business-oriented focus.”

Osborne also pointed out the use of shipping containers runs contrary to the goals of the Campbellton Neighbourhood Association which is working to beautify that end of town.

“Clearly, regulation of shipping containers represents only one component of overall beautification, but it would be part of a pattern of incremental changes and initiatives which together will add up to a significant change for the better,” Osborne said. “While many present at the meeting agreed that if containers were used, they should be kept in good condition and painted to match existing buildings, there was little to no support for the regulation that would actually achieve those ends.”

City staff were recommending council hold a second public hearing so that council can give third reading to the bylaw and move forward. Council was expected to make a decision during Tuesday’s council meeting after the Mirror went to press.