How shipping containers can be used in Gander continues to be a topic of discussion in the business community.
And it’s something that draws the ire of George Brown.
Brown, the owner of Professional Tire on McCurdy Drive, an industrial area of town, has been opposed to regulation since it was first raised by council in May 2018.
While nothing has been finalized, regulations are in the draft stage and, should it be adopted, it would dictate how the containers can be used on residential and commercial properties.
For the past 30 years, Brown has been using shipping containers for dry storage.
“It keeps the tires away from our building, if not, you’ve got a mess around all the time,” he said. “If we didn’t have them, it would probably be thrown down around the building.”
Furthermore, Brown has 15 shipping containers he rents out and he fears regulation will present storage issues in the future.
While he agrees they can be a little unsightly in the middle of town, but being set up in an industrial area, Brown said these containers are a necessary part of business.
Throughout his three-decades of usage, he said, the containers were never an issue.
“I don’t understand where this is coming from,” he said, but feels it might have something to do with a few people who might be misusing the container.
“If you have one or two people you get a complaint about, go deal with it, don’t penalize all of us,” he said. “A lot of good business people are going to get tangled up with this because of a few bad people.”
Hazel Bishop, president and CEO of the Gander and Area Chamber of Commerce, has heard similar concerns. Speaking with The Central Voice, Feb. 18, Bishop said the chamber was facilitating dialogue between concerned business owners and the Town of Gander and a meeting was scheduled for later this week.
Mayor Percy Farwell also acknowledged the meeting was taking place, stating it was about finding balance when it comes to the regulations.
Though he isn’t sure everyone will be in agreement on a final decision.
“It’s very difficult to get 100 per cent consensus on anything… but we want to make sure we consider all perspectives thoroughly before we adopt,” he said.
From the town’s perspective, Farwell said the examination of shipping container regulations is the result of a growing popularity, both residentially and commercially.
While he did say there was some concern about how people were using the units, Farwell said regulations are in the interest of protecting the aesthetics and safety of the community.
“This is not intended to be punitive to those that are using them, it’s intended to provide some order to appropriate reuse where possible,” he said.
On the commercial level, Farwell said there are situations where the containers can be used as storage options in lieu of a warehouse. And this presents challenges, including esthetic appeal, along with whether or not it meets fire and life safety standards.
“All we are trying to do is put some regulation around the use of something that is a very conspicuous thing, that is to the benefit of everybody,” he said.
And regulation is needed to bring some order to its usage, the mayor added.
“Because without regulation, you have nothing to enforce,” he said.
Farwell understands there are businesses that rely on these containers, and in cases like Brown’s, it serves as a revenue stream. The potential for a negative impact is something the town is sensitive too.
Which is why there has been ongoing discussion since May, and the town continues to seek commercial input before finalizing any form of regulation.
“What we drafted is a basic first attempt at framing out a set of regulations,” he said. “Within that, there are probably impacts we haven’t anticipated and don’t fully understand, so we want to hear from those who will be impacted.”
Which is why Farwell said council will continue to take it’s time in developing and adopting regulations.
“We are trying to get this in place as soon as we can, but it’s not an emergency situation,” he said. “We are not going to rush in and adopt regulations that we know are imperfect.”