Miami County commissioners have opened the door for county residents who would like to build a home using cargo storage containers.
All five commissioners unanimously voted, during their March 27 meeting, to override the Miami County Planning Commission’s recommendation and allow for cargo homes to be built as long as they meet all of the standard new home requirements, such as having engineered plans and meeting all applicable codes.
An official resolution detailing the specifics of the decision and how the zoning regulations will be modified to allow for the cargo container homes is expected to be brought back before the commission soon.
Cargo containers currently are allowed in the county to be used for storage, but they must be screened, and there is a limit of three per property.
The county’s zoning regulations need to be modified to allow the units to be used as residential structures because they currently are listed under the “Uses Prohibited” section unless they are used for storage.
County planning department staff have recommended relocating the cargo container language out of the “Uses Prohibited” section and into Article 3 of the zoning regulations. It also was recommended to add wording regarding the repurposing of cargo containers that would allow for them to be used as building material subject to the requirements of building, sanitation and other codes.
Miami County planning commissioners, though, voted 4-2 during their March 5 meeting to recommend denial of the requested regulations changes, and 4-2 to suspend discussion about the cargo container topic for another year.
To override the Planning Commission’s recommendation, the County Commission needed to have a super majority, or four out of five votes. All five commissioners voted for the override, and Commissioner Tyler Vaughan said he specifically did not like the recommendation to table all discussion about the topic for a year.
“I would never tell anyone we won’t see something for another year, and I don’t appreciate the Planning Commission doing that,” Commissioner Tyler Vaughan said.
Miami County Commissioner Rob Roberts agreed.
“We should never be telling our community we don’t want to see you for another year,” Roberts said.
Former planning commissioner Phil Elliott attended the March 27 commission study session during which commissioners talked about the cargo container debate. He said he disagreed with how some of the planning commissioners were handling the discussion, and it eventually led to him stepping down from his position.
“It’s one of the reasons I’m not on the Planning Commission anymore,” he told the county commissioners. “I could see where it was going, and I didn’t want to be associated with it.”
Vaughan said the cargo container issue can be simplified in the zoning regulations by separating cargo container wording related to storage and building material.
Miami County planner Kenneth Cook said most neighboring counties, including Franklin and Johnson, allow for cargo containers to be used as building material for homes as long as the plans meet all code requirements.
While making the approval, Roberts pointed out that those wanting to build cargo container homes will not face restrictions on paint color or other aesthetic options.
“It will not be treated differently than any other house,” said Mike Davis, chief building inspector.
It may not be long before the first cargo container home is built in the county. Michael and Katie Wyse, who own 35 acres along U.S. Highway 169 south of Lane near the Timber Lake subdivision, have told county officials their dream is to build a home using multiple cargo containers.
They were waiting to pay for engineered plans, though, until they got approval from the county.