Business owners are one step closer to having more freedom to use shipping containers as a storage option. The Laramie City Council approved the second of three readings of an ordinance Tuesday that would change the city’s Unified Development Code to allow for certain zoning districts to house and use shipping containers long-term.
The ordinance was proposed by city staff to provide guidance for shipping containers used for additional storage. Currently, shipping containers are not permitted in any zoning district except through a temporary use process, which allows the containers to be placed for up to six months total.
During the first reading of the ordinance May 7, Planning Manager Derek Teini said staff found the original regulations to be “fairly burdensome,” taking up both valuable staff time when citizens call and property owner’s time and money trying to move it after the six-month limit.
He added Tuesday his office has already had to enforce two instances this year.
Although he ultimately supported the measure, councilman Paul Weaver still had reservations about potential unexpected “significant growth” in the use of shipping containers around the city and subsequent growth in needed enforcement.
“I think people will still (use) them and try to put them on their site, I think that’s going happen no matter what,” Teini answered. “People don’t follow the rules all the time in all sorts of avenues. … However, I at least have a mechanism to maybe make it allowed in those areas in which we’ve said yes, one, three or more.”
The new ordinance would not take away the temporary use process, which Teini said is popular with businesses or homeowners that need to store furniture during a remodel, as an example.
Instead, it adds the ability to accommodate long-term usage in commercial, industrial and other more intense zoning districts as shipping containers grow popular as a flexible, movable storage option.
The limited number of containers that would be permitted in commercial or industrial zoning districts would need to be part of the final site plan and screened from view, Teini added.
After councilman Charles McKinney expressed concerns with containers in residential areas, Teini said they would not be permitted in residential zones under the new ordinance with limited exceptions, including businesses within R3 zoning districts and residents who use the temporary use process.
The new ordinance does not include any language discussing storage containers used as dwellings, sometimes seen as part of the Tiny House movement. Any storage container used as a dwelling or structure would need to meet city building code requirements, Teini said.
The Council voted unanimously to approve the second reading of the ordinance. It will be on the consent agenda for its third reading unless a member of the Council chooses to move it to the regular agenda.