Shipping container proposals advance to Smithfield Town Council

Published 4:49 pm Thursday, February 16, 2023

Smithfield’s Planning Commission voted unanimously on Feb. 14 to send two proposed changes to the town’s zoning ordinance, each pertaining to shipping containers, to the Town Council with recommendations for approval.

Currently, the zoning ordinance allows shipping containers only as temporary structures, permitting them for a maximum of 60 days with a waiver and up to an additional 90 days with a zoning permit.

The first change would replace the 60-day waiver requirement with a 21-day grace period where no waiver or permit is required. The intent is to allow residents to rent moving pods without needing to go to the Planning Commission for permission.

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Under the proposed change, a waiver would grant an additional 45 days. The requirement of a zoning permit for a 90-day extension would remain as-is.

The second change would make permanent shipping containers a by-right use in areas zoned for heavy industry (I-2), meaning owners of I-2-zoned parcels would be allowed to place containers on their property without needing town approval.

Shipping containers would also be permitted by special use permit in light industrial (I-1) zoning, farmlands zoned for community conservation (CC) and in the town’s highway retail commercial district (HRC) under the second change. Obtaining a special use permit would entail an applicant making his or her case to the Planning Commission.

The proposed language would also allow containers to be stacked upon receipt of a special use permit. The Smithfield Volunteer Fire Department, which has been granted an extension pending the adoption of the proposed ordinance changes, maintains a two-story training structure out of stacked shipping containers behind its station on South Church Street.