Granby debates rules for shipping containers

A shipping container sits behind some businesses along Granby’s main street. The town does not currently regulate the containers and is considering a code change.
Amy Golden /

With a growing number of shipping containers popping up around Granby, the town board is considering whether to begin regulating the large metal vessels.

The trustees were torn Tuesday between the aesthetic and safety considerations of the containers versus the benefits the owners may get from a more affordable storage option.

Town Manager Ted Cherry estimated at least four containers were in residential areas with the town code enforcement officer counting another 15 in central business, 20 in highway general business and none in industrial zones.

The regulation put forth would only allow containers in industrial zones, though containers would be permitted on construction sites for up to 90 days.

Trustees debated whether to allow the shipping containers long-term in residential areas. Expanding the regulation to residences led to a question about allowing containers in business districts, which was also disputed.

Trustee Rebecca Quesada said that the containers were a non-issue and don’t need to be regulated. Other trustees ran the spectrum as they debated how strict the standards should be.

Some worried about the lasting impacts on town. Trustee Natascha O’Flaherty wondered if allowing the containers for general businesses along the highway could undo the work to beautify the town’s main street.

There was some discussion about grandfathering in existing containers, but staff said this could create more issues. As presented Tuesday, the proposal would give existing noncomplying containers two years to conform to the requirements.

A few citizens spoke up about the proposed regulation, mostly voicing opposition to regulating the containers and pointing out that the units are a viable option for those that can’t otherwise afford storage.

The containers that may be regulated with this proposed ordinance are only those used for storage. Repurposed containers being used for housing or business would be subject to different regulations.

Unlike other storage facilities such as a shed, shipping containers are not subject to any building regulations. Because of that, containers don’t have to sit on any sort of foundation — which would help prevent rusting — or comply with the town’s setback requirement.

Mandating a concrete foundation in the current building climate could also make storage unattainable for many. Cherry said he would consult with the town’s building department on what they might recommend.

If the town were to permit the units, the new regulations as presented would ban containers from being used for advertising or showing any letters. Containers would be required to be painted “a neutral, earth-tone, site compatible color.”

Trustees were unsure about this proposed regulation, as it leaves a lot to be interpreted.

Eventually, the board agreed to bring the topic back for a second workshop, realizing that a number of details still needed to be hammered out. No decisions were made Tuesday.

In other business:

• The town attorney held a workshop on small cell towers, which are used in 5G coverage. Because of federal and state laws, municipalities don’t have much say in regulating the towers beyond appearance and setback.

Granby currently doesn’t have any regulations on the books and the attorney recommended the town fix that quickly, as applications are beginning to roll in for other cities and towns. The board will likely approve the policy at its next meeting.

• The board approved subdivision improvement agreements for 16 lots in Granby Ranch, which did not have previously approved agreements.

• Trustees renewed a lease of town property to Comcast, which had lapsed a few years ago, though the company continued paying rent. The narrow piece of land sits at 550 E Topaz Ave behind the town shop and is used for storage by Comcast.

• After discussing a new board conduct and ethics policy, trustees moved to hold a workshop on the document before approval. Trustees Nick Raible and Deb Shaw opposed this, wanting to instead immediately approve the document and adjust it as needed.

• Trustees appointed five members to the board of zoning adjustments, made up of current and former planning commission members. The board had to be reinstated after not meeting in more than seven years. Two parties have recently approached the town clerk looking for a zoning variance.

• Trustees approved spending $6,658 to clean, scrape, prime and paint the long mural wall on Agate Avenue out front of Granby Dental. The mural has been degrading quickly and the public art committee has a new plan for the wall that should improve its longevity.

The first ever Granby Arts Festival, scheduled Sept. 4, will be a mural competition with fish cutouts to be placed along the wall. The company removing the current mural will paint the wall a shade of blue. The art committee plans to hold a community art day to paint waves on the wall before mounting the new fish murals along it.

• The board held another executive session on a possible real estate purchase, but made no decisions afterward.

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