Questions on container homes set for council’s answers next week

The local debate on regulations for shipping container homes is unsettled, but it is moving forward – employees at Gladewater City Hall are developing the outline of an updated ordinance that will leave key decision points to council members.
The dialogue started in the spring when the council’s first, knee-jerk reaction to a proposed container home on Lake Gladewater was to impose a broad restriction similar to the hodgepodge of local rules related to mobile homes and manufactured housing. Former Mayor Scott Owens put the brakes on immediate action.
Two months later, in her first meeting in the central seat May 16, newly-installed Mayor Brandy Flanagan likewise opted to slow-walk the development of new rules for related residences in the city limits.
In the meantime, the developer of the proposed home on the lake shore opted for another route. Stung by the initial backlash to her building materials but committed to being a positive part of the community she’s chosen for her home, Jamie Sanchez reportedly abandoned her shipping container plans prior to the mid-May meeting.
Flanagan noted multiple citizens have approached council members about the issue, and she moderated the public discussion last month to get council perspectives.
“We wanted to have that final discussion before the staff creates that (ordinance) for us,” she said.
Council member Rocky Hawkins, a lake shore resident, said he’s received quite a bit of feedback from other Lake Gladewater homeowners – the properties are owned by the city and leased for long-term tenancy. Hawkins opposes shipping container homes, concerned allowing housing at the lake that’s substantially below the value of neighboring residences.
“You’re opening up a Pandora’s box,” he said. “There are homes right next door that are million-dollar.
As for container-built homes, “I’m not sure the lake is the place to put them, maybe anywhere.”
In the development of new rules for manufactured house, council member Michael Webber asked for clear definition between types, i.e. modular vs. mobile, manufactured, container, etc.
“Currently our definition of ‘modular’ is wrong,” Gladewater Building Inspector Al Harrison noted. “The state defines a modular home as one built to the standards of the State of Texas and is to be set on a permanent foundation, which is what separates it from a manufacture home.”
The term ‘mobile home’ applies to manufactured homes built prior to 1973.
“An update of the language needs to definitely happen to fit state guidelines,” Flanagan agreed.
The revised regs will adhere to international building codes, Harrison confirmed, such as the requirement that alterations to containers (for crafting a home) would have to be designed by an engineer.
“The whole time I’ve been on council we’ve been told we had an ordinance that addressed mobile homes in the city limits and come to find out we don’t,” Flanagan lamented. “It’s extremely important to me that we get that in the city limits and it’s addressed to mobile home parks only.”
Gung-ho for a code update in the initial conversation, council member Teddy Sorrells said he’s glad the council took no immediate action.
“Citizens have a right to their investments on their homes and their properties.”
The new regulations are still being prepared, Harrison said, and it’ll be ready for council consideration during their regular meeting this month, set for June 20.
Granted, there will be some key specifics unanswered – to be determined by council members. Obviously, preferences vary one to another.
“We’ll send them the outline of the ordinance,” Harrison said, and the council can fill in the blanks. As for shipping container homes on the lake shore, “I don’t think prohibiting would be the thing, really, but there might be restrictions.
That’s a council question: “It’ll be for them to hammer out and figure out what they want.”

– By James Draper

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