Americans, or at least some of us, have discovered a new low-cost storage solution. Why pay $30, or $125 a month for mini-storage, when you can buy your won metal shipping container for about $1400 (I’ve seen the for less than half that price in Arkansas). That’s a one-year payback period, based on the higher rental rate.

Here’s how the story is unfolding in Wichita Falls, from Claire Kowalick, Times Record News:

On Tuesday, the council will consider an ordinance change that will regulate use of these structures.

A temporary storage unit is a large, movable container for residential or business use.

The trend toward these units on residential properties has prompted numerous complaints from neighboring citizens.

The Planning and Zoning Commission discussed the issue at their January 10 meeting and again at the March 14 meeting. The commission requested moving forward with an amendment to the code for these units.

Most complaints are stemming from use of a TSU in the front yard or driveway of a residence.

Both Building Inspections and Code Enforcement divisions have reported citizen complaints. The city does not currently have an ordinance in place to regulate TSUs.

City staff researched similar regulatory provisions and created room for a “reasonable allowance” of these units.

New codes look likely to pass, and they will put restrictions on homeowners, some easy, some rather onerous, in our view (such as the limit on how long a unit can be kept on site), and requiring that the unit be placed on a driveway! Again, hat tip to The Times Record for this list:

  • A permit is required for placement on the property.
  • Only one unit is allowed at a time per residence or multi-family structure.
  • The TSU cannot be placed in a fire lane, maneuvering lane, public right of way, public sidewalk or visibility triangle.
  • The unit cannot be on site for more than 60 days in a one-year period. A 15-day extension may be allowed in certain circumstances.
  • Allowable TSUs must be no greater than 160-square feet and no higher than 9-1/2 feet.
  • The units must be placed on a driveway surface.
  • Requirements may be waived by a building official in the event of a natural disaster declaration by the city.

This restrictive management of TSUs, in our view, throws out the baby with the bath, as it were. It’s far too aggressive, and completely lacking in creativity. Not considered, for example are the many ways in which TSUs can be customized to blend with existing structures and landscapes. Instead of “boxing” all containers into one “ugly” stereotype, planners could offer a design handbook with a half dozen options for improving the look and synergy of these affordable, ultra-rugged structures. This might include:

  • Green roofs and roof garden decks
  • Window and door architectural elements
  • Attached canopies, shutters and awnings
  • Raised foundation options such as piling systems with deck surrounds
  • Stacked units for an ultra-modernist residential aesthetic.

Let’s hope the Wichita model doesn’t become a precedent for other town to put the boot down on yet another potentially affordable and resilient building alternative.—Editor