The city is cracking down on the use of shipping containers after learning that some residents are illegally using them for storage.
Council gave first and second reading to a bylaw that last week that will restrict the use of shipping containers to the city’s four industrial zones only. The proposed bylaw will also go to a public hearing.
City planner Chris Osborne said the bylaw was in response to an increasing number of shipping containers being used for purposes other than what they’re designed for.
“They are intended for the hauling of freight, typically on ships and rail cars and have a corresponding form and function,” said Osborne in a report to council. “However, there are a number of residential properties in the city where the containers are placed in the front yard or driveway for long-term ancillary storage purposes.
Osborne said that leads to devaluing of nearby residential homes, public complaints, and an emerging enforcement problem.
He added that shipping containers are also being used by commercial businesses instead of constructing proper buildings.
“In general, they are used for additional on-site storage and in some cases, form the majority of buildings in some mini-storage facilities,” Osborne said. “This is of particular concern given the evolution of the local economy and the greater and emerging prominence of tourism as a significant component of jobs and investment.”
A big concern is residents and businesses illegally placing shipping containers on their properties.
“It would appear that an increasing number of residents are turning to the use of shipping containers as an alternative to traditional ancillary building construction in an effort to avoid the costs associated with building permits, including survey and engineering costs,” Osborne said. “In the case of commercial properties, businesses are generally turning to their use out of convenience and relatively low cost, in addition to efforts to avoid development permits, works and services and development cost charges.”
Osborne noted that in both cases, the shipping containers are being used on the “mistaken assumption” that the containers are not buildings and do not require permits.
City staff recommended that the best way to control their use is to restrict them to the city’s four industrial zones.
However, if the bylaw is adopted, there will be some flexibility to allow shipping containers to be temporarily used in order to move goods.
“The proposed bylaw…permits shipping containers to be placed on any lot for not more than 30 days per calendar year, and further, that with written justification, this period may be extended up to 90 days” Osborne said.
The bylaw would also allow shipping containers to be temporarily used for security, storage or site office purposes on construction sites.