Shipping containers a no-no on residential property

Derek Montague
Published on July 22, 2014
Monica Surina stands next to a small shipping container she is using as a storage shed. She believes residents should be allowed to reuse these containers on their own property. — Photo by Derek Montague/The Labradorian

A recent social media post by the Happy Valley-Goose Bay town council has ignited debate about what residents can and cannot do with their own property.

The council posted a notice to residents on its Facebook page concerning the use of industrial shipping containers. The post tells residents the metal containers can’t be used on residential land as “they devalue your own property and (that of) your neighbours.”

“They are not permitted in residential areas and cannot be used as sheds, storage or structures,” the post says.

“Given they do not meet the National Building Code of Canada, permits will not be granted and residents that already have them on residential lots are asked to remove them.”

People quickly responded to the post, with many saying council shouldn’t dictate what residents do with their own property. Others pointed out that there are properties in town with wrecked vehicles that are more unsightly than a shipping container.

Monica Surina recently purchased a small container for approximately $2,000 to use as a shed. She said council shouldn’t discourage people from reusing containers.

“There’s nothing wrong with these, they’re solid as a rock. I mean, we had to get a crane to get this one in here,” said Surina.

“We’re supposed to be reusing, recycling. … If we can, why not?”

Surina figures she can keep her shipping container because she and her partner live in a commercial area of town. But she believes people who live in residential areas should be able to use containers, too, as long as they’re not an eyesore.

“Another thing I have a problem with is they’re telling us what is allowed to be put in our yards. If I want to have one of these in my yard, who’s to say that I can’t?” she asked.

“We’ve got other issues. We’ve got old cars sitting around … there’s a lot of properties that seriously needs to be looked at for cleaning up, and they’re worried about a couple of shipping containers?”

Surina did some research and found news articles about how people in other parts of the world are converting the containers into housing units and, in one case, a motel.

“These shipping containers have been used for years throughout the world,” said Surina.

“They’re a very popular thing in Europe, especially. Europe is light years ahead of us in terms of recycling and reusing.”

Happy Valley-Goose Bay Mayor Jamie Snook noticed the social media debate and posted his own message to residents.

“With all of your help this (Facebook) post has become very effective in bringing attention to a number of issues in our community related to town beautification, and this particular topic has not been prioritized any higher than all of the other issues we, as a community, must face,” wrote Snook.

“In regards to this topic, it should be said just for clarity that this is not a new decision of council. Residents who abide by the town bylaws and plan to put new structures on their properties have always had to obtain permits, and this (Facebook) post served its purpose and intent of being proactive and sharing information on an issue in hopes of having to spend less of our tax dollars on enforcement in the future.”

Town planner Ilene Watson-Grant said all municipalities in the province must abide by the National Building Code of Canada and that code doesn’t allow for shipping containers to be used on private property.

“What we’re trying to do is get information out there so people are aware about the rules and regulations in terms of what you can and cannot put on your property,” said Watson-Grant.

“The town is not in a position to issue building permits for shipping containers. Shipping containers, therefore, can’t be located on (residential) properties within the town.”

Watson-Grant said the town  heard that some residents were using shipping containers, which is why it used Facebook to raise awareness of the regulations.


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