Debate intensifies about storage containers, vehicles
By MATTHEW KENWRIGHT
Debate ignited Tuesday at the Hays City Commission's work session as business professionals criticized two of the city's regulations.
The two groups have shared contentious moments about the city's rules since the Jan. 16 work session. There were approximately 25 attendees at the meeting in which several people aired grievances about rules governing portable shipping containers and inoperable vehicles.
The container ordinance states permanent units are prohibited within the city. Commercial businesses can use them in the short-term for storing goods. A temporary building permit is required if they sit for more than 10 days, and containers cannot be stacked.
Each site can have one permit in a calendar year for 60 days, and a 60-day extension can be sought.
Scott Simpson, owner of Best Radiator, said he has seen Walmart violate the rules. The lax enforcement leads other businesses to ask about an exemption, he said.
Toby Dougherty, Hays city manager, said city staff often approach offenders with the opportunity to resolve issues before formal action is taken.
"Shipping containers are one of those things that we don't go out of our way to try to cause trouble with to actively enforce because we can typically keep it managed at the level of the verbal conversation," Dougherty said.
Mayor Kent Steward said he thought the ordinance should be changed.
"I don't want them in residential areas, but I would be OK with an ordinance to allow them, with some reasonable restrictions, to maybe how many you can have depending on how big your property is, and maybe they have to be behind, those kinds of things," Steward said.
Simpson said others are reluctant to share their views because they believe city staff will scrutinize their business.
"There's actually some business fellas that are afraid to come down and voice their opinion because there are fears of retribution," Simpson said.
"I think we can find a middle ground," he said. "I think there's reasonability available."
Commissioner Ron Mellick said the commission has the responsibility to anticipate consequences of any exceptions they include in the rules.
"We have to look at worst-case scenarios. That's what I gotta do every time," Mellick said. "I get burned on that. I'm tired of getting burned."
There also was debate about an ordinance regulating inoperable vehicles on properties.
Dougherty said the rule is enforced most often in residential areas and commercial sites such as hotels and apartments.
Simpson said the ordinance allows fences to be built to shield vehicles from sight, but age can make screens look "horrifying."
Chris Miller, owner of Auto Tech, 600 Vine, said, "Everybody else here who's doing what I'm doing thinks we ought to have an exemption for these vehicles on commercial property when our business is fixing those vehicles."
John T. Bird, city attorney, said the scenario of giving auto body businesses unlimited time to work on vehicles amounts to allowing a "junk yard."
In other business:
* Commissioners considered paying $17,800 to extend the waterline on 41st to service new construction in the area.
* The commission debated initiating the process to develop the R9 Ranch to improve the city's water supply. The 12-year plan would cost an estimated $65 million.