Milaca will ban the use of cargo containers as permanent structures in residential zones of the city.

The Milaca City Council passed the first reading of a ban on the use of cargo containers as an accessory structures within residential zones March 18.

The ban came after a resident reportedly argued with city staff about if the containers were allowed, despite the existing ban on corrugated metal exteriors. When the issue was brought before the planning commission, it recommended making the ban explicit.

While containers could not be used as a structure, the ban would not prevent residents from using cargo containers on a temporary basis for moving or other needs, according to staff.

The zoning change will come before the city council again during its next meeting.

Council members also discussed several other changes to city code, though they were all tabled. 

One of the first amendments tabled by the council was a modification to vehicle storage rules in light industrial zoning districts. The change would have barred industrial properties from storing vehicles outside for longer than 24 hours. 

The ban on storage also would have applied to trailers, boats, campers, boat lifts and fish houses, according to the council packet. 

City staff clarified the amendment simply made it more explicit as what could not be stored outside. 

Council members questioned if the proposal was needed, or if it simply required changing enforcement priorities. Eventually the proposal was tabled and sent back to the planning commission.

A third proposal would have limited farming operations in Milaca to residential lots that are 10 acres or larger. That was rolled into a larger discussion of the agricultural ordinances prompted by Council Member Norris Johnson.

Johnson pointed out that several city ordinances appeared to be designed to phase out farming in the community.

“It was pretty obvious that the intent of the ordinances as they were written was to sunset any farming activity in the city, within city limits,” Johnson said.

Johnson wanted to modify the ordinances so they aren’t intentionally sunsetting farming, because that could hurt property values of farms when the existing owner goes to sell the land. 

The discussion was prompted by a resident who lost out on the sale of their farm due to contradictions in city ordinances, according to council documents.

Johnson submitted an amendment that would have allowed farm animals on lots of 10 acres or more, or smaller with a variance. The amendment also would have allowed up to four chickens on properties under 10 acres, with some restrictions. 

Council Member Dave Dillan said he was not in favor of chickens within the city limits, a sentiment that Council Member Lindsee Larsen agreed with.

Another concern raised by council members was the 60-foot setback for farm animals, which a few of council members said was too short.

Ultimately the council elected not to take action on the proposal and sent it back to the planning commission to hammer out the details.

A previous version of this article incorrectly implied a ban on cargo containers applied to the whole city. The ban would only impact residentially zoned properties. This article also makes it more explicit that the zoning change will come before the council again. The correction was made April 8.

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