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Council looks at imposing restrictions on shipping containers in Butte

Butte-Silver Bow commissioners are looking at imposing restrictions on shipping containers in Butte.

A former Butte-Silver Bow commissioner wants the council to impose restrictions on large, metal shipping containers that he says are becoming popular storage devices on streets in Butte.

“There has been one at Majors and Utah for eight months and the neighbors are ready to lynch me over it,” said Bud Walker, who made the request last month, a few weeks before he left office.

He asked county staff to look into it and because there aren’t wheels on the containers, they aren’t subject to time limits on the streets. In fact, there are no local laws whatsoever on the containers, which are commonly used on cargo ships and semi-trucks, he said.

“I thought we needed to get something on the books,” said Walker, who did not seek re-election last year after three terms as a commissioner in District 7. “These are a pretty cheap way to store things. I don’t want to see them popping up all over Butte.”

Linda Harding said Tuesday that the large, green container Walker is talking about has been in the street next to her house on Utah Avenue since April because a sewage leak flooded her basement.

A contractor suggested she get it as temporary storage for everything in her basement while repair work was being done, she said, because it would cost far more to store things elsewhere.

The work has taken longer than expected, she said, because contractors are hard to find in Butte during the summer.

“I am not trying to bother people,” Harding said. “I am a single mother and I had to get things out of the basement. It’s (the work is) about done. I’m waiting for the insurance company to look it over.”

According to Walker, Harding told county staff earlier that she would have the container removed within three months, “and that was back in July.” There are others in town, he said, including three behind Domino’s Pizza on Harrison Avenue.

He has asked fellow commissioners to draw up restrictions on where they can and can’t be, how long they can be somewhere and their sizes, among other things.

“They are just so industrial looking,” he said. “They are like permanent structures.”

The issue has been referred to the council’s Judiciary Committee, which will take it up for the first time at 7 p.m. Wednesday in council chambers of the Butte-Silver Bow Courthouse.

Commissioner Brendan McDonough, chairman of that panel, said there are probably more containers in Butte “than we know about.”

“I think they are an eyesore and could be a safety hazard,” he said.

Among other things, they could block emergency vehicles and where people can safely park or walk.

McDonough said the committee will look to other cities for examples of possible ordinances, or in lieu of that, write their own from scratch. Whatever the course, it will take time to flesh out a plan, get public input and craft the language, he said.

Several cities in the U.S., including Columbia Falls, have imposed restrictions on the containers.

Columbia Falls' ordinance restricts their placement in all but industrial zones, but says contractors can use them at construction sites. They can be used temporarily elsewhere, but not for more than 30 consecutive days in any one year.

They may be allowed up to 60 days with an administrative conditional use permit “provided the extended use is necessary and not merely convenient, and disruption to the neighborhood is minimized,” the code says.

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Government and politics reporter

Reporter with emphasis on government and politics.

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