City center ban on reused shipping containers angered by business owners


(Photo by press staff by Geoffrey Plant)
Pedestrians walk past two commercial properties on Pope Street which, between them, have a total of seven shipping containers grouped together, including an air-conditioned model on the far right. A new ordinance from Silver City requires that all seven containers, along with others located in historic districts of the city, be removed by the end of February.

A recently passed city ordinance that requires the removal of shipping containers from properties in Silver City’s four historic zoned districts has caused some local business owners to cry foul.
“I only heard about it on Saturday and I am appalled by it,” said Rocky Mondello, owner of Morning Star, who said he has been using a repurposed “18-wheel box” to store for about 15 years. supplies, materials and equipment for his screen printing business. “Most people don’t know it’s there, it’s so incognito. Whoever has succeeded in this does not have the right to spend it without telling us about it.
Shipping containers can be found at several commercial properties downtown and adjacent to downtown, including Morning Star, Jalisco Café, and Silver City Trading Company Antique Mall. No business owner the Daily Press spoke to said they were contacted about the proposed ordinance before it was approved by the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission, which held a hearing public at its July 6 meeting.
Planning and Zoning Commission chairman Nickolas Seibel, who is also editor of the Daily Press, said the commission made the right decision.
“It really got people saying, ‘Well you could see these containers coming’ and ‘Is this good for [the historic-designated neighborhoods of] Silver City? ‘ Said Seibel, adding that the commission is charged with defining a very, very long term course for the development and preservation of Silver City. “The city has done what the city is required to do by law, and they have issued the required notices.”
But Silver City did not contact a single owner before or after the ordinance went into effect last month. The city council unanimously approved the measure after holding a public hearing in which only the then director of community development, Jaime Embick, who represented the “applicant”, that is to say the city, testified.
On the required “Citizen Engagement Report” provided to the Planning and Zoning Commission and City Council, Embick wrote, after “Number of homeowners contacted:“ County Commissioners ”,” then wrote “None” in the letter. ‘space after’ What concerns, questions and problems have been expressed by neighbors? “
Commissioners must be informed of any changes to the Silver City land use code. However, Grant County Commission Chairman Chris Ponce couldn’t be sure he had received a copy of the June 11 letter that was allegedly sent to the elected body via the US Postal Service.
“I’ve been in business here for 30 years, and they are choosing this year to do it !? We are one of the few companies to survive, ”Mondello said. “My biggest thing is: what about buildings that have been empty for 20 years? Dilapidated buildings? They are not doing anything about it and instead want to go after the companies now? “
Seibel said that as a newspaper editor he probably could have better informed the public about the proposed and then codified shipping container ban, but he pointed out that city staff did what he was required to do so, with advance notice.
“If there is anyone who has failed here, maybe it is me,” said Seibel, wearing his editor’s cap. “We don’t cover P and Z, generally.”
The idea to add wording to the city’s land use code that bans shipping containers in historic neighborhoods – and gives landowners six months to remove them, starting August 27 – came from the Silver City’s historic design review committee, said committee chair Becky Smith. Smith is married to Silver City Mayor Ken Ladner, who did not vote on the ordinance, which was passed unanimously by all four city councilors. The mayor of Silver City only votes in the event of a 2-2 tie.
“We’ve been talking about this for about a year, on and off,” Smith said. “We all drove around and I took pictures all over town; when you start looking for them, they are everywhere. I understand that they are well hidden, even the library has one! The most recent are those added by Q and containers from Bikeworks.
According to the ordinance, “Any existing storage unit / shipping container currently located on property in historic overlay zoning districts must be removed within six months of the effective date of this ordinance. “
Alternatively, owners of storage containers located in one of the historic districts “may consult with the Historic Design Review Committee and the New Mexico Division of Construction Industries to convert the container to a permanent structure in the United States. six months from the effective date of this ordinance ”, such as as long as the state approves the construction and the appearance is uniform with the other buildings in the surrounding block.
This could lead to considerable expense for those who view these containers as part of their basic business infrastructure.
The official zoning plan, as well as a plan with the boundaries of the four historic districts, are available on the city’s website.
Anthony Quintana, who owns three converted shipping containers off Pope Street between his Mick’s 33 restaurant and Dave Baker’s Bikeworks space – which itself includes four shipping containers – said he was not worried not of the new ordinance, as Quintana said he “asked permission” before placing the containers on his property.
But unless the city grows in its shipping containers, which he uses to store around 100 bikes, along with tools and equipment, Baker fears the new ordinance will seriously affect his business.
Baker bought the old foreclosed restaurant on Pope Street in the city, which, under the leadership of managing director Alex Brown, has also long supported youth programs offered by the nonprofit 501 (c) (3 ) federally registered.
“We’re trying to move out of the old store on the hill, and our ability to move depends on storage space,” Baker said, noting that Bikeworks has, according to his estimate, put around 2,000 bikes in the hands of the region. children, and provided 1,000 additional bicycles and bicycle parts to children across the US-Mexico border through a partnership with activist group Border Partners.
Bikeworks’ future former location is a rent-free location inside the city-owned recreation center annex atop Brewer Hill, which Baker is expected to vacate by year-end. There are hundreds of bikes to house before they can be prepared for cyclists, often through the Earn-A-Bike program, which before the pandemic regularly offered children and adults the opportunity to spend a few hours in learn bicycle repair in exchange for a bicycle of their own.
“What’s the real problem? Does anyone dislike ripple? Asked Baker, who admitted he had not consulted with the city before moving the containers to his property over a year ago, but only learned of the new ordinance when the Daily Press l contacted on September 4.
“What’s the protocol for that?” If there is a complaint to the Community Development Department, I guess they would come see me and talk to me, ”Baker said. “I’m still trying to figure out where this is coming from.”
After the city manager carefully read the already passed ordinance, which he said contained several “textual amendments,” as the action to be taken was outlined in city documents ahead of the meeting, Brown said: “My biggest concern is that they haven’t spoken to those affected by it.
“I assumed it would be an administrative thing, where we were fixing something in the land use code,” he said. “As far as the application is concerned, we will have to apply it, based on the limits of the ordinance. But we have to be fair. This is my concern.
Interestingly, Paul Castellano, owner of the Silver City Trading Company Antique Mall on Broadway, said he was relieved that the city’s new ordinance prompted him to clean the two shipping containers that have been behind his store since 2011. They are filled with personal effects and furniture.
“Now they’ve set their feet on the fire. I plan to cross it in October, ”said Castellano. “It will be great to get rid of it.”
He’s not the only one planning to do some container cleaning in the fall.
“I have one in my backyard that I’m going to have to remove,” Smith said, referring to his real estate business on College Avenue.
She added that the intention of the Historic Design Review Panel’s recommendation was never to put companies in a difficult position.
“Number one, and with the need for communication and the city’s understaffing, it seems part of the plan was to let it be known so it didn’t surprise people – that’s why we put the six months in there. Smith said. “And given the current circumstances, I don’t think it would be inappropriate for the Planning and Zoning Commission to grant an extension of the sunset clause. Because the way it went, it was kind of a surprise.
Geoffrey Plant can be contacted at [email protected]

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