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Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Gretna outlaws shipping containers

Gretna outlaws storage boxes
Shipping containers banned by council

Wednesday, October 21, 2009 By C.J. Lin West Bank bureau

When Hurricane Katrina damaged the roof of Joe Harrison's garage, the 64-year-old Gretna resident and professional magician bought two shipping containers to store the tricks of his 50-year-old trade.

When his wife died, her things went into the containers to make room for his daughter to move back in with him.

"I couldn't just throw everything away," said Harrison, who along with a group of business owners persuaded the City Council to take a monthlong moratorium in September after officials issued 30-day warnings for owners to get rid of the containers.

But Harrison will now have to find other ways to store his belongings.

Citing aesthetics and safety issues, the council decided last week to enact a ban on using shipping containers as permanent storage units. The ban will rid the city of about 55 containers scattered around town. Several are owned by various city departments.

"Let's face it -- if we're going to keep this community viable, we're going to need to increase our standards," Councilman Vincent Cox said. "I don't look at this as a penalization. Everybody has a certain obligation to make things better, not just government."
Letters will be sent out this week telling owners that they will have 30 days to get rid of the containers before they are cited, City Attorney Mark Morgan said. Most of the structures were never permitted anyway, he told the council last week.

The decision comes despite the business owners' pleas that they need the containers for their operations, including storing records, work equipment or inventory.

"A construction company never does really have enough lay-down room or storage space," said Darrel Bond, who has operated a construction business on Richard Street for more than 20 years. "It would create a hardship."

Several council members expressed concern that forcing people to get rid of containers would unfairly burden businesses since some have had them before their properties were zoned in a manner prohibiting containers.

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