'SeaCan' bylaw undergoes further amendments

A proposed amendment to Yorkton’s Zoning Bylaw regarding regulations to allow shipping containers has itself been amendment, which saw the document again tabled at the regular meeting of Yorkton Council Monday.

Council passed 1st Reading and approved public notice for proposed Bylaw at their April 23, meeting. The Bylaw was subsequently tabled at the May 14, Council meeting so that Administration could incorporate public feedback and further Council direction into the final draft Bylaw, explained Michael Eger, Director of Planning, Building & Development with the City.

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“The proposed bylaw is intended firstly, to allow for shipping containers in a way that is fair to those property owners who have been forced to comply with all regulations when constructing permanent storage structures, and secondly, to ensure the City complies with Provincial legislation which requires that these containers be regulated as buildings,” he said.

The proposed Bylaw was presented to the Planning & Infrastructure Commission at their May 2, meeting. Discussion was largely in consideration of:  

• regulations in other comparable municipalities;

• the use of shipping containers as jobsite trailers;  

• capping the duration a shipping container is allowed on a residential site;

• the large number of shipping containers in the City;

• timelines for compliance;

• aesthetics;  

• ensuring fairness to those developers who have built permanent structures and been forced to comply with all regulations; and  

• the need for City facilities to comply with proposed regulations

Through the review process Administration proposed that the draft bylaw be altered to;

• Clarify the definition so that semi-trailers and other mobile structures are not confused as shipping containers;

• Limit the number of shipping containers on a C-1 City Centre Commercial or C-2 Arterial Commercial site to a maximum of one;

• Exempt those sites with only one container from triggering current storm water management regulations; and

• Increase fees for temporary containers on residential sites after 12 months use from $150 to $500

“Administration is of the understanding that some Councillors are not in favour of taxing shipping containers, and if they are to be taxed, that it would be beneficial to create a more predictable fee structure,” added Eger.

The Saskatchewan Assessment Management Agency (SAMA), under the Assessment Act and Cities Act, is required to assess all buildings or improvements which are situated within the City for more than 30 days. SAMA has already identified most of the known shipping containers within the City, which amounts to an assessment of 180 shipping containers on 30 different sites, explained a report to Council.

“Most of these containers were assessed prior to the 2018 taxation year and in several instances, have been assessed and taxed for several years. As is the case with any other assessed lands, owners have an opportunity to review their assessment annually when the tax roll is opened to the public. It is ultimately the property owner’s responsibility to ensure that they are being assessed accurately, and mechanisms do exist to allow property owners due process in this regard,” stated Eger.

“SAMA applies assessment methods in accordance with legislative requirements and although relatively complex, are conducted in the same manner as for the principle building or use. To waive these assessments would not only be inconsistent with the Province’s and the City’s core assessment and taxation practices, it would also be onerous for SAMA and City staff to produce annual reports and exemption bylaws that would be required by the Cities Act. Administration is therefore in favour of proceeding with existing assessment and taxation practices.”

The net effect of the proposed regulations, including proposed alterations, is that non-residential sites with existing containers (as identified in the March 12, 2018 inventory) may have to:

• Install ventilation or remove hazardous contents;

• Move containers to meet setbacks or building separation requirements;

• Move or remove containers to avoid requirements for professional design and the possible requirement to install a fire suppression system;

• Improve the ground beneath containers to ensure that shipping containers are level and less prone to sinking/settling;

• Install landscaping or privacy fencing to buffer containers from existing residential properties;

• Refinish or paint shipping containers to match principle building (where applicable);

• Obtain a Development Permit and pay the prescribed fee in order to legally use shipping containers;  

• Provide on-site storm water management, or alternatively, pay the in-lieu rate (currently $10 per square metre of building footprint); and

• If not already identified and assessed by SAMA, incur proportionate taxation.

“Commercial and industrial shipping containers, whether existing or newly placed, will be required to obtain a Development Permit and pay the prescribed fee. The fee will also cover inspection at time of removal, which will provide a mechanism to inform SAMA to remove the container from the assessment sheet,” added Eger.

“Shipping containers used for development/building projects with a valid City permit, including job-site containers, would not require their own permit and will only have to ensure they comply with requirements to safeguard storage of hazardous materials.

“It will take Administration some time to deal with existing inventory of containers due to the large number being used on a large number of sites. In consideration of this and Council’s direction to extend the compliance deadline, we are proposing that owners with containers placed prior to the April 3, 2018 Building Services’ notification letter, be given until July 31st, 2018 to apply for a Development Permit, and until January 1, 2019 to be in full compliance with the regulations. Containers placed after that date will have to comply immediately.”

Council was unanimous the proposed Zoning Bylaw Amendment, as amended, be approved for public notice and brought to the June 25, regular Council meeting for consideration of second and third readings.

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