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Colby halts permits for shipping containers

Colby halts permits for shipping containers Colby halts permits for shipping containers

Colby’s elected officials have instructed the city’s DPW not to issue any more permits for residents who want to put shipping containers on their property.

The decision was made Nov. 19 by the city’s planning committee after city clerk Connie Gurtner reported that two of the containers have already been moved into the city — including one in a residential area.

“I think it’s going to be temporary, the way it sounds, but you never know, so we had them get building permits as though they were utility buildings,” she said.

Gurtner said Colby does not currently have an ordinance addressing the use of shipping containers as accessory buildings and she wanted the council to address the issue.

“Is that something we want popping up in our residential areas?” she asked.

DPW Harland Higley said he believes the city should only allow the shipping containers in areas zoned industrial, with temporary exemptions offered to property owners who are using them for construction projects or short-term storage. He suggested issuing permits with a 90-day limit within a one-year period.

Gurtner said some people could rebuild the containers into actual storage structures with a sloped roof and roll-up door.

Ald. Lony Oestreich said he would like any new ordinance to allow residents to do what Gurtner described, since the structures would be no different than a metal-sided garage or shed.

“There’s potential there for it to be used if they follow the proper protocol,” he said. Oestreich said the council members can set the rules for how they want the storage container sheds to look.

Gurtner said the city doesn’t currently have any rules requiring pitched roofs on storage sheds, but there are setback requirements based on square footage. If an accessory building is under 240 square feet, it can be as close as five feet from the rear lot line. Any structure over that size must be at least 20 feet away from the rear lot line.

No accessory building can be bigger than 2,000 square feet or take up more than 15 percent of the entire lot after the primary building’s square footage is deducted.

Gurtner provided council members with several sample ordinances for them to review before suggesting something specific for Colby.

“I don’t want to spend the money and write an ordinance that isn’t what you guys want,” she said.

Regardless of what the council decides on for an ordinance, Higley said wanted direction on how to handle any further storage container requests that come in “I don’t want this to be a free-for-all,” he said.

The committee voted to essentially enact a moratorium on permits for any storage containers until a new ordinance can be adopted. Once she gets feedback from council members, Gurtner said she could probably write most of the ordinance herself with help from city attorney Bill Gamoke.