Local Governments Regulate Use of Portable Self Storage Units

Posted on Apr 30 2010 - 11:16am by Winnie Hsiu

In several communities across the country, local governments are regulating the use of portable self storage containers in front yards, driveways, and on local streets. During the month of April, at least three cities have passed or are considering ordinances regulating the use of portable containers: Wausau, Wisconsin; Springfield, Missouri; and Baltimore, Maryland.

Baltimore and Springfield officials have so far only introduced legislation regulating the use of portable storage containers. The Baltimore bill was introduced by City Councilman William H. Cole IV, in response to an incident in which a storage container was parked on the street in front of the Otterbein Federal Reserve Bank. In the Otterbein case, officials were disturbed to find that the storage company in question insisted on protecting the privacy of its customers and refused to say who had rented the container.

The Springfield City Council has considered the use of portable storage containers before, about two years ago. Between 2006 and 2008, Springfield residents fought so fiercely over the question of how to regulate the use of storage containers, that city council members voted to impose an administrative delay. The delay was intended to give members of the community a cooling down period before the issue was considered again.

Now Springfield’s Planning and Development Director has presented two draft regulations to the city council for consideration. The first ordinance defines “storage containers” and “storage trailers,” indicating that the fire department should treat the containers as open outdoor storage facilities or as structures. Fire Chief David Hall said that the fire department already does treat storage containers this way. “We already felt we had the authority,” he said in Tuesday’s News-Leader, adding, “this just clears up the ambiguity.”

Although two years ago, fire safety issues were a hot button issue in Springfield, Hall explained that the fire department has been working with residents and local businesses to make sure that everyone understands how important it is to avoid blocking access to fire hydrants and sprinklers, or to hazardous material storage.

Springfield’s second draft ordinance affects the city’s land development regulations. The new law, if adopted, will not require property owners to get a permit or to register with the city before using a storage container. It also, unlike previous drafts, does not place any limit on the number of portable self storage containers that a property owner can use at one time. It does, however, require that property owners place their containers thoughtfully, making sure not to block parking spaces or the line of sight at intersections. In residential areas, property owners must remove their portable storage containers from front yards, driveways, and curbs after the container has been in place for 60 days in a row. Containers that are used during remodeling or construction must be removed within two weeks of the completion of the project.

Springfield business owners were optimistic that this time around, the process of drafting and approving new regulations regarding portable storage containers will proceed smoothly and peacefully.

“I feel more hopeful than I have in a long time,” Mobile Storage Solutions owner Brenda Teeslink commented in Tuesday’s News Leader. “I feel like we’re working toward a useful end.” Competitor Bill Shreck agreed, noting that the new city council has been “very pro-business and pro-growth.”

Wausau, Wisconsin, meanwhile, has passed its portable storage regulations into law. Legislation passed by the Wausau City Council earlier this week will require residents who wish to use portable storage to get a permit from the city if they plan to keep the containers in place for more than 10 business days. The permits will cost $39. Wausau council members also agreed to make it illegal to have more than two portable containers on a given residential property at one time. Each must be located at least five feet from the edge of the property.

Sources used:

Booher, Kary. “Committee revives container issue.” News Leader. Feb. 6, 2010.

Bridges, Amos. “Draft ordinances address use of storage containers in Springfield.” News Leader. April 27, 2010.

“Regulations limit number, size, location of storage units.” News Talk 550 AM 99.9 FM WSAU.com. April 14, 2010.

Scharper, Julie. “City Council to consider Walmart zoning.” The Baltimore Sun. April 20, 2010.