At the Tuesday, April 27 virtual meeting of Carleton Place council’s committee of the whole, shipping containers (known as sea-cans at the town-hall) were once again on the table. Director of Development Services, Niki Dwyer proposed two methods of regulating the placement and use of these large steel shipping units. The first would involve amending the development permit bylaw meaning enforcement through prosecution at the Superior Court of Justice, as there is no structure for orders to comply or a more local resolution according to Dwyer. She added that this would involve a significant strain
on staff resources and involve high costs for legal fees, of which only a portion can be recoverable if the court elects to award costs. The second (and staff preferred) method would entail simply enacting a new municipal bylaw which could be enforced by the protective services team and could not be appealed to Ontario’s Local Planning Appeal Tribunal (LPAT).
This issue first came to council in 2019 as a result of complaints regarding the use of these containers in residential areas. The staff report pointed out that over the past 10 years, municipalities have seen an increase in the number of shipping containers used for on-site storage and conversion to usable buildings. While there is a growing movement of habitable shipping containers in the province, locally their use has been predominantly limited to accessory storage for commercial and industrial properties.
Containers placed on a property for an extended period of time constitute a “building” under the Ontario Building Code (OBC) and require a building permit. The Ontario Fire Code also has limited regulations pertaining to what can be stored within the container.
Neither the OBC nor Fire Code regulate how many containers may be on a site, how far apart they have to be, where on the site they can be located or what they look like. As a result, more municipalities are finding it’s important to employ a local policy in order to regulate the additional considerations associated with the use of shipping containers.
Over 40 properties were identified in 2019 as having these containers on site and were told then by town staff of the requirement for permits for their continued use. Dwyer reported that only 2 owners had responded to those letters; 1 applied for a permit and the other simply removed them.
Consensus around the council table was that their use in residential areas was not desirable, but there was no interest expressed in enforcing this position through bylaw creation and fines. Ultimately council went with the “do nothing” approach and unless they bring it back for a vote to reconsider (which requires a two-thirds majority) it will not come up again until after the next election.