OUT ON A LIMB: Here’s hoping the container debate will fade away

Well, you know you sit in the editor’s chair for years and the issues come and issues go

Well, you know you sit in the editor’s chair for years and the issues come and issues go. People get up in arms over one and others are ignored.

Some public hearings have to be held in the Tidemark Theatre there’s so much interest and with others, the only non-city people attending are bored media reporters trying to stay awake.

But one of the stranger issues that’s come across my plate is the proposed prohibition on metal shipping containers. It’s one of those issues that at first blush you’re inclined to make fun of because you don’t realize how prevalent they are. Consequently, you’re surprised when the story proves to “have legs” as they say in journalistic parlance; meaning there’s more to it than you realize and it generates a lot of debate.

I probably wouldn’t have paid these containers any mind, even though, thinking back, I can remember seeing them in various places but didn’t think enough about them to make any kind of comment. But now that the issue has been brought to the public agenda thanks to a city proposal to ban them, I see them everywhere.

Which is the point city staff are making, of course. But if they hadn’t pointed it out, I wouldn’t have paid no never mind to them at all.

Sure, there’s a fellow on Hilchey Road who’s got one on his residential lot. And I remember seeing one being used at the motocross track. Oh, and there’s that one that was moved onto the lot behind the Mirror by the company constructing an apartment building. See, you start thinking about them and you realize there’s no shortage of them anywhere.

And why not, they’re sturdy, they’re bullet-proof and they’re cheap.

As Ken Fear said in Paul Rudan’s story “Welcome to shipping container central” on Friday, “They’re  everywhere.”

And the proposal to restrict their use has come under fire. Council is considering a bylaw to restrict the containers to industrial-zoned areas only and ban them from residential and commercial properties.

The problem is, people are using them instead of building proper buildings built to code and denying the city development permits and development cost charges. I’d hope that this not simply a cash grab by the city and that the real issue is esthetics and safety. The trouble is, banning the containers might also deprive some businesses of income from renting them out.

And speaking of safety, I’m hoping Ted Arbour wasn’t serious when, in defending the containers’ use, he  used as a rationalization the possibility of the containers being an affordable housing option. That was a joke, right?

Still, it’s a valid point that on smaller, residential lots, the containers are unsightly and inappropriate. On a larger commercial lot, they could be tucked away out of sight and perhaps kept in good condition. Then they can fade into the background again.