Smithfield approves changes to shipping container laws

Published 12:47 pm Wednesday, March 8, 2023

Smithfield’s Town Council voted unanimously on March 7 to approve two changes to its zoning ordinance, each pertaining to shipping containers.

The first repeals the requirement that town residents seeking to temporarily place a shipping container on their property obtain a 60-day waiver. Instead, there’s now a 21-day grace period when no waiver is required.

The change is intended to allow residents to rent moving pods without needing to go to the town for permission. Residents can keep the container for an additional 45 days with a waiver, and an additional 90 days with a zoning permit.

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The second change makes permanent shipping containers as 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.

Permanent shipping containers are now 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). Obtaining a special use permit would entail an applicant making his or her case to the town’s Planning Commission.

The new language also now allows shipping containers to be stacked upon receipt of a special use permit. The change will benefit the Smithfield Volunteer Fire Department, which maintains a two-story training structure out of stacked shipping containers behind its station on South Church Street.