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Shipping containers discussed by P&Z

The planning and zoning commission has started the process to determine how shipping containers can be used inside Jackson, including whether they can be used for homes, offices or permanent storage.

In August, Jackson’s Board of Aldermen heard a presentation from Quinn Strong, a St. Louis developer with Capital Real Estate Group, on allowing steel shipping containers to be used in the construction of buildings. They referred the issue to planning and zoning.

Once the planning and zoning commission puts together a proposed recommendation, it will then be taken to the City of Jackson’s Board of Aldermen for approval.

Many Jackson residents spoke against the use of shipping containers as residential building material at a public hearing on Oct. 11, worried that it might lower their property value to have a shipping container house next door.

Rick Vines, who is a supplier of shipping containers, also spoke to the commission providing expertise on the containers and asking the commission to consider the temporary use of these containers when writing their zoning amendment.

Vines mentioned that people have used his shipping containers when their basements flood to store their items temporarily in their driveway before they can be brought back in the house. Storage containers are also being used currently at stores like Walmart to house overstock items for the holiday season.

Strong did not attend, nor did anyone else in favor of building construction using shipping containers.

While houses built out of shipping containers do not cost less than traditional housing, they can be made quicker. The commission believed mass-producing these houses was why Strong was interested in developing them.

Janet Sanders, building and planning superintendent, said that there are no current regulations on shipping containers and the only thing stopping people from using them currently is a regulation that used materials must be approved by the city. 

“They can be very well done, and they can be very shoddily done,” Sanders said. “Whatever your code says has to cover everything.”

Pre-built modular homes are currently acceptable by the city. Sanders said there is one currently in Jackson, and she said it is impossible to tell it was premade unless you already knew.

Temporary uses of storage containers are currently not addressed with building permits, but will be regulated during this process. Sanders said they could set a time limit on the temporary use.

“I’d like to try to roll into this something on tiny homes because that’s going to be the next thing,” Sanders said. “We do not have a minimum square footage for homes.”

She added that while some newer subdivision have covenants that include a minimum square footage requirement, a lot of residential properties do not have a covenant or their covenant may not be enforced.

The Cape Girardeau City Council voted to ban the use of shipping containers in September, as well as limiting the containers use for other purposes inside the city limits. St. Charles has allowed shipping container houses, but requires them to have a peaked roof and be covered with siding.

This discussion will continue at the next planning and zoning regular meeting at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 8 at 101 Court Street in Jackson.

Jay Forness covers education, county government and community events for The Cash-Book Journal. He graduated from Southeast Missouri State University with a degree in multimedia journalism and has lived in Jackson for the past four years. He can be reached at cbjedit@socket.net.

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