ST. GEORGE – Cargo containers are a popular way to store items due to their security and durability but when they are stored on residential property permanently, some neighbors see them as an eyesore. St. George City Code does not specifically address the use of such containers and the matter came up again for City Council consideration in its regular meeting Thursday night.
It is not a new issue for the council, as they have been dealing with it for at least two years.
Measuring 20 to 50 feet long and weighing several tons, the containers are commonly seen at construction and agricultural sites. On occasion, though, the containers can be found in residential areas where their uses range from temporary to permanent for a variety of purposes.
When residents place containers on their property for permanent use, it has triggered complaints by some residents who see the containers as unsightly. There is also the question of whether or not containers should be allowed at all in residential zones on a permanent basis or if they should be banned.
City staff told the council that they had checked other cities to see how they handle cargo containers. Around half of those cities didn’t allow permanent use in residential zones. However, all cities allowed for temporary use.
Temporary residential uses tend to include home remodels and renovations.
Deputy City Attorney Paula Houston said the city has received a number of complaints about containers in residential zones, though was unable to give an estimate on the amount of complaints received. She also said the city has generally not allowed people to have the containers on a permanent basis, though it has never objected to temporary use.
“I own (a container) on my residential property,” St. George resident Jonathan Zundel said. He loves having the container because it is strong, weather proof, rodent proof and has a litany of other advantages over a regular shed, he said.
“They are engineered to be tough …,” Zundel said. “The people that have them and use them love them.”
The city also already has an ordinance that can apply to the cargo containers, Zundel said, and referenced city code section 10-7B-6 which deals with detached garages and accessory buildings. His own container is big enough to act as a detached garage, he said, so why not simply apply the existing ordinance to it?
The ordinance Zundel referenced is the one Scott Roper, owner of Kustom Containers, had pointed his costumers to. While Roper said that selling containers to residential customers isn’t a big part of his business, he is nonetheless against seeing the containers banned outright.
Houston said the ordinance mentioned does not necessarily apply to cargo containers due to their classification as containers used for shipping. They are also built out of different materials then most homes. The exteriors of accessory buildings need to have a similar look to the home as well.
However, if the council wants the cargo containers to be added to the ordinance, they could be, Houston said.
“This is a business that will never go away,” said Kimball Gardner, owner of On Site Storage, adding that there are around 8,000 storage containers spread across Washington, Iron and Kane counties.
The containers are used for a little bit of everything, Kimball said. Some people use them for storage while others use them for temporary or permanent housing.
The main problem that Zundel, Roper and Kimball said people appear to have with the containers is bad paint jobs that stand out too much. The problem could be easily fixed with a paint job, they said.
“They’re ugly, that’s what people are saying,” Councilman Jimmie Hughes said.
On the whole, the City Council wasn’t in favor of drafting a specific ordinance for container use and opted for city staff to amend the existing code, or ban the containers.
“I think this is common sense,” Councilwoman Bette Arial said. “We’re accused of having lots of ordinances and rules and I don’t think that is the intent of anyone. We just want to have a lovely, workable community. Let’s just not get into telling people what’s appropriate in their backyard.”
Suggestions given the city staff included regulations regarding painting the containers, as well as possible rules pertaining to where the containers could be placed. Just how much backyard space a container could occupy – no more than 25 percent by one estimate – was also recommended.
No votes were taken on the matter.
“Bottom line is we’re not going to make some neighbors happy,” Councilwoman Michele Randell said.
The City Council unanimously passed a resolution to pledge $25,000 annually to the Tuacahn Center for the Arts for the next 20 years. Tuacahn opened in 1995 and has reached a point that it is in need of expansion and upgrades.
Tuacahn is also recognized as one of the county’s major economic drivers, generating an estimated $75 million for Washington County. Only Zion National Park produces more.
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