The prohibition on shipping containers for storage use across Mission may soon be overturned, potentially even on some residential properties.
On Oct. 18, council voted unanimously to send a bylaw amendment to public hearing, allowing container use on industrial, commercial, institutional, or agricultural-zoned properties.
But they also voted (4-2) to stop the bylaw officers from ordering their removal off residential properties until staff come back with a recommendation in 90 days.
“I think we need to be fair to all residents in our community,” said Coun. Ken Herar. “We want to provide equal access opportunities to all residents to expand their storage capacity in the most cost effective way.”
The containers are not currently permitted anywhere in Mission, though they can be seen on numerous industrial, commercial properties, and even in residential properties, public institutions and parks, according to staff.
Mission’s current bylaw on shipping containers is an “outlier” when compared to neighbouring municipalities and has not deterred their use, staff report.
Used containers are currently being sold to the public as a secure, low-cost storage option, and vary widely in condition, according to the report. In some cases, they’re used as housing materials – even as repurposed swimming pools.
Mayor Paul Horn stressed a staff recommendation does not mean council will greenlight residential containers, but regulation may be an easier fix than outright removal.
“We’re not saying to people go out buy one because it’s going to be legal,” Horn said. “(But) once a person has spent $2,500 to $5,000 or more on one of those things, they are not going to remove it.”
Allowing shipping containers on residential properties will likely place undue stress on bylaw officers and fire inspectors, according to staff. They said residential zoning already allows for sheds, barns and garages.
They note that the containers are not designed to conform to any building standards, and present safety and extreme fire risks as they are poorly ventilated.
Fire Chief Mark Goddard said safety is their biggest concern. He brought up Enderby Fire Captain Daniel Botkin, who was killed in 2011 when a container exploded from a gas canister stored inside.
“How do we make residents bring them into compliance?” Goddard said. “A lot of these slip through the cracks, and I think we’d be very challenged to enforce the safety rules for them.
“I can tell you, anecdotally, that a lot of these containers pop up in the strangest of places. They’re built into buildings.”
Mission firefighters recently responded to a residential structure fire and found three drums of racing fuel inside a container, Goddard said.
He said that, luckily, it was ventilated, but fire crews didn’t initially know about the hazard and it could have led to a “catastrophic failure.”