Business owners packed council chambers Tuesday night to oppose the city’s proposal to ban shipping containers from commercial and residential properties.
Seventeen people spoke at the public hearing which addressed the proposed bylaw to restrict shipping containers to industrial zoned property only. There would be some flexibility in that containers could be placed on any lot for up to 30 days per calendar year, which could be extended to 90 with an application to the city. The bylaw would also allow containers to be temporarily used on construction sites.
Ross Blackwell, the city’s land use manager, said the draft bylaw was, “generated in response to on-going complaints from the general public about the visual impact of these industrial structures in residential and commercial areas.”
Most B.C. communities have restrictions on the use of the containers, but not in Campbell River. Several business owners are taking exception to the bylaw.
Ted Arbour, owner of Eco Ezy Box Storage, said he agrees with limited use of containers on small, residential properties, but taking them away from businesses which have been using them for years is wrong.
“As always, the commercial or business properties in Campbell River will have to take the brunt of the financial end,” Arbour said. “Campbell River is far from being back on its feet business wise and now getting hit with this.”
Chris Osborne, city planner, wrote in a report to council that some businesses are using the containers to avoid the cost of building a proper storage shed.
“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.”
Harvey Hiquebran said the use of containers does keep costs down and should be permitted as long as they’re aesthetically pleasing and hidden behind the building.
“Every small business is hanging on by its teeth. You’ve been gradually squeezing the ball tighter and tighter,” he said. “A container comes in and it’s very helpful. You can put up a container behind your building and use it as storage. They’re fire proof and have a considerable savings. I agree you shouldn’t have one in your front yard, but if a guy wants to have one at the back of his business, why can’t he? Fence it in, it looks great.”
Kermit Dahl, owner of Associated Tired, is one of those business owners who has a container behind his store. Space is tight and he uses his container to store customers’ tires for them.
Dahl said if the city bylaw goes through as it’s drafted his business “won’t be able to offer that service to our customers anymore.”
Dahl asked Coun. Ron Kerr, who has the Campbellton portfolio, if he’s ever noticed his container. Kerr admitted he had not.
Steve Daigle of Daigle Welding and Marine said he uses sea cans to store dangerous goods, including flammable material that is not legally allowed to be stored inside.
“We have no room on our lot to build a fire-proof building away from our building,” said Daigle who added he would be happy to move the containers out of sight. “I would have no problem moving my sea containers to the back of my property.”
Others spoke about the security these containers provide and how costly it would be to take them away after spending several thousands of dollars to secure them, paint them and in some cases, add electrical.
Alan Edie, owner of Campbell River Common mall, was the only voice in favour of the bylaw.
“This specific bylaw I believe is common sense versus some of the monopolies that have tended to exist and also the old school business practices of this town,” Edie said. “This bylaw is straight u. It’s long overdue. Granted not every sea can is aesthetically ugly but if you went around the town and took pictures, there’s some strategically placed on your most busy street corners – is that good common sense? Probably not.”
Edie said it’s discouraging to see containers on the corner of the roadway into world-famous fishing resort Painter’s Lodge and on the corner of the highway towards Gold River.
“They’re abusing your leniency,” said Edie, referring to Campbell River’s lack of container restrictions. “It’s disgusting.”
One woman also spoke up to defend shipping containers on her residential lot.
Sandy Green – who said her containers are not visible from the road but are behind her home along the lane behind 6th Ave. – said when she purchased the sea cans the city told her they were acceptable.
“It really does upset me because I have invested a lot of time and money and they’re not an eyesore,” she said. “I’ve colour-coded them to my home…had a roof built over them. It’s been very expensive. I’ve got them insulated, as well there’s electrical in them.”
Green uses the cans for storage and a workshop, in lieu of another garage which she cannot afford to build.
After going through the speaker’s list, Coun. Kerr thanked all.
“You all spoke eloquently, (offered) a lot of good ideas, a lot of perspective,” Kerr said. “I do feel this bylaw was crafted without consultation of small business people and I do want to assure you that we hear you, I hear you.”