Business owners leery of shipping container bylaw

By Chad Ingram

Published Aug. 25 2016

Some Algonquin Highlands business owners are concerned about a new bylaw that will regulate the use of shipping containers as storage buildings in the township.

More than a dozen residents attended an Aug. 20 public meeting at the Dorset Recreation Centre on the creation of the bylaw.

Council began work on a bylaw earlier this year after the township’s building department received notice of multiple instances of shipping containers being used as storage buildings.

“They’ve turned into more permanent structures on some properties” Algonquin Highlands planner Sean O’Callaghan told the crowd.

The draft bylaw would allow shipping containers as well as the bodies of tractor trailers or straight truck boxes to be used as storage buildings in the following zones: rural (RU) highway commercial (C1) general commercial (C2) recreational commercial (R3) general industrial (M1) extractive industrial – pits (M2) extractive industrial – pits and quarries (M2A) and waste disposal industrial (M3).

The bylaw would limit the number of containers per property to two except in cases of waste disposal areas and commercial self-storage facilities. The draft bylaw also says the shipping containers are not to be outfitted with electricity.

Dan Flynn runs a plumbing business and asked council to consider small business owners.

“I’ve been wanting to get shipping containers for a few years” Flynn told councillors. “Please consider small business.”

Flynn also asked council to reconsider the regulation that electricity not be run to the storage containers.

“There’s absolutely no reason under the Ontario Electricity Safety Code to not run hydro” he said.

Brad Johnson of Portico Homes told council he uses shipping containers for storage and is opposed to their regulation.

“I certainly would be against regulation on private property” Johnson said. “They’re really a very innocuous storage device. A shipping container is in many ways a poor man’s garage.”

Johnson said the containers are solid structurally sound and much more affordable than constructing storage buildings.

“I think the general public has a right to put them on their property for storage purposes” he said.

Joe Cox of Carnarvon’s Francis Thomas Contracting told council the company has three containers it uses for storage on one of its properties.

“We have three truck trailers that have been used as storage for a considerable amount of time” Cox said. “We don’t want to litter every lot we have with containers.”

O’Callaghan told Cox the company could apply for a minor variance.

One member of the audience asked if all existing shipping containers and tractor trailer bodies would be grandfathered.

“No” said O’Callaghan explaining that since the containers were not technically legal structures to begin with there was nothing to grandfather.

Under the bylaw any shipping container occupying more than 10 square metres is considered a building and would therefore require an engineering report.

A few residents said this seemed unreasonable one noting that shipping containers are designed to withstand thousands upon thousands of pounds of pressure as they are stacked atop one another aboard ships.

“I think the engineering thing is a little bit overboard for shipping containers” he said.

Another resident said he didn’t think shipping containers should be allowed as permanent structures at all.

The containers will also have to comply with setbacks and visual screening requirements including being blocked from view of adjacent streets by either buildings a vegetative buffer or two-metre high fence.

It is expected council will pass the bylaw in September.