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Marshall council updates ordinance on shipping containers

MARSHALL — The Marshall City Council moved forward this week on city ordinance language that would allow shipping containers to be used as storage sheds in certain parts of town. But first they made some changes, including the type of permit it would require to use a shipping container for storage.

Council member James Lozinski said he thought an interim use permit should be required instead of a conditional use permit, because that way the permit wouldn’t stick with a piece of property permanently.

Council members approved an ordinance that would allow a shipping container to be used for storage under an interim use permit that would expire when a property is sold.

On Tuesday, the council held a public hearing on proposed city ordinance changes that would allow shipping containers as storage on property in a general business district. The proposal grew out of discussion from earlier this spring, when a Marshall property owner requested a variance for a shipping container on his property. At the time, city ordinances didn’t allow shipping containers to be used as permanent storage in residential and business districts.

“Now the new ordinance will allow installation of a single shipping container in a general business district, by a conditional use permit,” Ilya Gutman said.

Marshall City Administrator Sharon Hanson said Monte Buntjer, the property owner who originally brought the request forward, no longer planned to go ahead with using a shipping container for storage.

Council members still discussed the ordinance proposal, although they disagreed on what kind of permit and conditions should be included.

“Is there a better way to do this, so when an owner sells the property, that could be forced to be removed?” Lozinski said. “Would it be better to do an interim use permit, so we don’t end up with a shipping container that’s all of a sudden 75 years old, that’s passed from owner to owner?”

“That may be possible. I didn’t review that possibility,” Gutman said. He said it might be possible, if the city changed the proposed ordinance language to allow an interim permit for more than 180 days.

“I just feel like we’re trying to fix a problem that doesn’t exist,” council member Craig Schafer said. The proposal already included conditions like painting or screening a shipping container, he said. “To me, I think that we’re either going to allow them looking decent, or we’re not.”

A motion to adopt the new ordinance language as written failed on a 3-3 tie vote. The council went on to approve a version with changes proposed by Schafer and Lozinski, including that the size of the containers be limited to 340 square feet, that containers be painted and maintained, and that the containers be allowed under an interim use permit.

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