You could nickname Campbellton “Container City.”
The steel shipping containers are all over Campbell River’s northern business and industrial district. They’re tucked in behind or beside all sorts of businesses and shops, as well as beside the Food Bank and even at city-owned Nunns Creek Park.
“They’re everywhere,” says businessman Ken Fear. “I can see the point in not having them on residential properties, but just about every business around here has one.”
On Tuesday, a public meeting at City Hall addresses the issue of shipping containers as council prepares for third and final reading of a new bylaw.
The gist of the bylaw, if approved, would restrict shipping containers to industrial-zoned areas only and ban them from residential and commercial properties.
There’s leeway to use the various-sized steel containers for temporary storage on building sites, but the problem from the city’s point of view is people use them in lieu of proper buildings. And perhaps a bigger concern is loss of revenue.
“In the case of commercial properties,” wrote city planner Chris Osborne in a report to council, “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.”
During a quick driving tour of Campbellton, it’s hard to not spot a shipping container. Zoning is specific to different properties, but it’s fair to say that many commercially-zoned properties and even some residences have them.
If the bylaw goes through, they would be required to remove their containers and either construct a new building or rent space at a storage warehouse.
For business people like Fear and Ted Arbour, who each own storage facilities as well as rent out shipping containers, the bylaw is seen as a clear “anti-business” message from the city.
“As always the commercial or business properties in Campbell River will have to take the brunt of the financial end,” Arbour wrote in a letter to the Mirror. “Campbell River is far from being back on its feet business-wise and now (we’re) getting hit with this?”
Fear and Arbour both agree that shipping containers are not suitable for residential properties, but they’re firmly against the bylaw restricting them to industrial properties only.
Businesses use them because they provide secure storage in a relatively small space. And adding onto a building or constructing something new is often too expensive for business owners still climbing out of a lengthy recession.
“Businesses have enough of a day-to-day struggle,” wrote Arbour. “Why not offer help instead of hindering them. Aren’t there enough empty commercial spaces in Campbell River?”
And what’s the alternative, asked Fear, if businesses aren’t prepared to go along with the bylaw? Businesses could use commercial trailers or tents, and there’s nothing in the new bylaw to prevent their use.
And there is another good use for shipping containers: advertising. At the far end of the city, in the industrial park, Mayor Walter Jakeway owns CR Storage Warehouses and uses a shipping container by the roadside to support the advertising sign for his business.
The public meeting takes place Tuesday, 6:30 p.m., at City Hall.