Shipping Containers-Love them or hate them
The debate on whether shipping containers should be allowed in our communities continues to be discussed and in both print and social media. In the town of Gravenhurst, people seem to be on 3 sides of this issue.
3 Points of View
- Some have no problem with them one way or another. They could care less.
- Others, vehemently say things like, “Containers have no place other than in shipping yards….period!” (Gravenhurst Banner October 13, 2016, page 4)
- Many others of us love using them and look forward to seeing more of them in our communities. Those who desire to, and do, use them, have multiple reasons including:
A garage between materials, construction, permits, inspections, and more can cost well in excess of $30,000. A shipping container of 8 ½ feet by 20 feet can cost as low as $2,500 with tax, delivery, and set-up inclusive.
Ease of movement
As a result of needs changing and with the assistance of the proper truck or crane, a shipping container can be easily moved. A garage is immovable.
A shipping container is built to withstand hurricane force winds and water on the oceans. (Our region is known to have the occasional tornado.) This far, far, exceeds the municipal building code standards. A shipping container is able to be stacked (although not desired by its owners/users in residential or even most commercial/industrial locations). Yes, stacked—the strength is such that they can be piled 4 or 5 high, demonstrating their superior construction. Can you stack garages?A shipping container is considered to be higher in strength in its building structure, fire-proof, water resistant and vermin/pest proof. And in the case of a tornado—the container might get moved, but the contents will remain inside and not be flying debris. A garage on the other hand is prone to water damage, wind damage, vermin/pest infestation, and fire destruction.
To be used for Storage is what they are designed to do.
Whether that is storage of items on dry land or on the ocean—they were built to be used for storage of items. That is their purpose! As a result, they allow property owners to keep loose items tidy and cleared from their yard and put away inside the shipping container.
Ease of set-up
Within days a shipping container can be ordered, paid for, delivered, set-up, and ready to use. Unlike a conventional garage that involves so much municipal red-tape that it can literally take years to come into agreement with a municipal Planning Department.
Easy to paint.
With the wide choice of metal coating paint colors, a shipping container can be camouflaged to blend anywhere. From a bold billboard, to a mural. Or as simple as a green to look like a tree. Perhaps you want it to be the same color as the siding on your home. The choices and opportunities to make these works of art and eye appealing are endless!
Confused by local by-law
Based on these reasons, those who desire to have and use shipping containers for storage are left confused by By-laws in our surrounding communities. Take our town, Gravenhurst, for one.
Yes, the “Prohibited Uses” line states that shipping containers can’t be used for storage, sales, or human habitation. However, in the same line, same breathe, it also states that a truck, truck trailer, cargo container, bus, or coach body also cannot be used for storage, sales, or human habitation in any zone. That means residential, commercial, industrial, and institutional.
Can anyone else see the absurdity of this by-law?
Giving credit to our Town Council and the Planning Department, we can recognize the Human Health and Safety Issue in regards to the “cannot be used for human habitation” portion of this by-law.
Most Residents of Gravenhurst are out of Compliance. Read on….
Furthermore, to state that these items cannot be used for storage or sales is the absurd part. Look at it. That means, that if you follow the letter of the law in this by-law:
- All trucks, whether they are half-tons, cube trucks, or transport trucks are out of compliance. Including any Town vehicles such as snowplows, sanders, or dump trucks.
- This includes any sort of trailer that can be pulled behind any of these vehicles as well.
- Do you have any trailers on your property storing things like:
- a boat?
- How about if you run a Yard Maintenance business—you cannot have a lawnmower or snowblower on a trailer either. That would be storage or sales as considered in the letter of this by-law. You are out of compliance.
- Are you a Construction Company? You can’t even store lumber, drywall, or any other supplies either in a trailer. Yes, yes, there is one small exception for the permitted use of a shipping container—on a construction site. In that case, during the construction of a building, you can have and use a cargo or shipping container for storage. Other than that, a shipping container is not deemed permitted to store items. Hmm, anyone else see the double standard here?
Why do we have this bylaw?
My question to the Town Council and the Planning Department is why? What is the reasoning for this by-law? And what about this double standard—the Town of Gravenhurst owns and uses shipping containers for storage—they are also out of compliance on their own by-law.
Yes, I understand and can even agree that in these items, whether a cargo, shipping container, truck, truck trailer, bus, coach body that unless specifically, and even at a high cost, are retro-fitted, they are not suitable for human habitation. In this case, it is clearly a Human Health and Safety Issue.
But, what is the reasoning for a shipping container and the rest of these items to be banned from storage of items? I fail to see the reasoning beyond one of being a purely “cosmetic” issue.
Cosmetic Bylaws need to be reconsidered
If it boils down to being just a “cosmetic” issue—then this by-law needs to be reconsidered.
I despise vinyl siding. The look, and the texture, and the construction of vinyl siding. It is an oil based product surrounding your home. However, that does NOT give me the right to tell you that you can’t use it. It is your home, and not mine. As a result, I don’t own the view of your home. You do. Just as you do not own the view of my yard, home, or structures either. Whether it is the parking of a motor home in my yard and you perceive it to be blocking your view of something down the road or even into my yard. May I remind you—you don’t own the view. Just as I don’t own the view of your property. In conclusion, my property is not for YOUR enjoyment—it is for mine.
This reminds me of people who want a waterfront view, however, don’t want to buy the property on the water. So they buy a property further back, and they have a clear unobstructed view because no one has bought the lot at the water edge. Then 5-10 years go by and suddenly someone comes along and buys that waterfront property. They build a house so they can enjoy THEIR purchased view of the water.
You, on the other hand, are outraged. “How dare they? We’ll see about this—the Town must stop this. They are building and blocking MY VIEW!”
You Don’t Own The View
Hold on there !!! Remember, you didn’t buy the waterfront property—it was never “your view”. Yes, for a time, you had the privilege to enjoy that view. However, it is NOT YOUR RIGHT to that view.
Just as you do not own the view of my yard. You may see it. You may like or dislike it, but you don’t own it.
A by-law written purely from a cosmetic perspective is ridiculous. Beauty is in the eye of each individual beholder and their own personal interpretation. The “looks” of things will never please everyone, and should not be a huge basis for the writing and enforcement of a by-law.
Whether that be planting vegetables in your front yard so you have something to eat—the functionality and purposeful planting. Planting flowers is nothing more than a cosmetic appearance. Which in times of food insecurity— is a poor stewardship use of the land. Plant food, not flowers!
What is the Purpose of an “Anti-Storage” bylaw?
If there are no health and safety concerns, no constructional concerns, then what is the purpose of an “anti-storage” by-law?
A shipping container can assist a homeowner to be able to tidy up their yard by having a place to “store” things. The shipping container keeps what might be considered clutter cleared up so it does not pose an otherwise safety issue in the yard. It also keeps vermin such as raccoons, bears, mice, and even rats from taking up residence. Shipping containers improve the safety of communities.
There must be many others in the town of Gravenhurst who have similar feelings—as there are well over 300 shipping containers in our residential neighborhoods now. And many more people have expressed their desire to own them too. This is just the shipping containers. That does not include the collective thousands of trucks, truck trailers, bus, or coach bodies that are also being used in yards everywhere.
So, explain to me—why are they banned?
It seems that at one time a “cosmetic” by-law was formed. Now the community and residents of Gravenhurst on the majority (and we are in a democratic society right?) desire to use shipping containers—for storage, and perhaps for sales. It is time for Town Council to recognize the changing times. Just as having a “cosmetically” dandelion free lawn is not the acceptable norm anymore with the ban of pesticides—things need to be reassessed.
So Make Dandelion Salad
Go ahead and make a dandelion green salad, and even make some dandelion wine too. (if that is your thing—not mine, but maybe it’s yours).
Allow shipping containers. Make guidelines like garage placement beside buildings. Let’s see the creativity of shipping container owners as these spread across our landscape. Because if it is a “money” issue for the Town coffers, then issue a permit to put in on your property—but let’s get with year 2016 and beyond. Shipping containers are desired in our residential communities and they are already here to stay.
Shipping Containers–love them or hate them.
We love them !!