Tuesday, January 29, 2008

No shipping containers on your front lawn

Nice to pass an ordinance the scope of which you have no idea about...good job, local government. Also, city council meeting stats at 7:00, finishes at 9:00, two stories are written by ~11:00. Boo-yah!


Willows bans shipping containers
By Sam Bhagwat
of The Valley Mirror

Willows — Willows residents can’t park their cars on their front lawns.

They soon won’t be able to put metal storage containers there either.

Willows City Council voted unanimously Tuesday night to ban the use of the containers, citing three main concerns.

“It’s not beneficial to the attractiveness of the community,” said one council member. “It’s not a safe unit to have,” said another. “These aren’t legal buildings,” said a planner.

If a second vote on a related resolution proceeds next meeting as planned, the ban, legally a zoning ordinance amendment, will go into effect on Sept. 13.

No one present was sure how many people would be affected. Plannning Commission Chairman Larry Domenighini said he couldn’t estimate how many containers there were in Willows. Asked at the end of the meeting, City Planner Karen Mantele said “less than a dozen.” Council members interjected, proclaiming it was definitely more than that.
Also uncertain was whether the containers owned by the school district were covered under the regulation; the district is not.

City Attorney Gary Krupp wasn’t present to answer the question definitively; nor was Fire Chief Wayne Peabody to answer fire safety questions. Apparently no one had their numbers, either.

Council members Heather Baker and Vince Holvik seemed to at times have second thoughts.

Before the ordinance was adopted, Ms. Baker wondered about the impact on people owning these containers.

“How much does it cost to remove them?” she asked.

“I don’t feel it’s our problem,” replied Vice Mayor Peter Towne.

“I feel it is,” shot back Ms. Baker, saying that people who can afford to build containers to store their material would likely do so.

After the ordinance was adopted, Mr. Molvik reconsidered the situation if aesthetics were not at issue, thinking of two containers the city owns that sit in a side alley.

“What if it’s in the middle of your backyard, invisible from the street?” asked Holvik.

“It still gets back to, these aren’t legal buildings,” said Domenighini. “They don’t have to meet standards.”

Could they be made legal and regulated?

No, said Mr. Domenighini, adding that the relevant code is statewide.

Mr. Domenighini said a “backyard” compromise was considered but rejected, with planners fearing “shades of gray.”

Numerous parties present pointed out that containers filled with lumber might be a fire hazard; they also said that containers might be placed on six-foot setbacks between properties designed to prevent fires from spreading. One party said there had been fire department complaints about the matter.

“Other jurisdictions everywhere in California are looking for ways to regulate [storage containers], ways to control it,” said City Manager Steve Holsinger.

“Who knows what’s in them?” said Holvik.

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