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Minocqua Says All Residential Districts Should be Off-Limits to Storage Containers


MINOCQUA – Minocqua town officials are once again on record in opposing portable storage containers being placed in residential districts, except on a temporary basis.

“I’m bringing it here to get the temperature of the board,” said town chairman Mark Hartzheim, as he related a citizen’s concern and the planning commission’s recommendation at Tuesday’s town board meeting.

The issue concerns shipping containers, portable on demand storage (PODS), and store and move (SAM) containers, as well as others, being used as accessory buildings.

“I think we need to strongly encourage Oneida County to prohibit these for anything other than short-term use in a single family residential,” replied supervisor Bill Stengl. Later, the board agreed they should be prohibited in all residential districts.

“I just as soon not see them at all,” added supervisor John Thompson of the shipping containers, some of which are 40 feet long.

The board had addressed the issue back in 2019 with Hartzheim then writing the county, in part, “The primary concern the Town Board had about the units is appearance. Let’s be honest: these units may offer an economic utility, but the reality is that they are unsightly and it wouldn’t take many of them to negatively impact the character of a neighborhood.”

The town board Tuesday directed Hartzheim to again notify Oneida County it strongly opposes shipping containers and similar storage units being used in all residential districts, except when a homeowner or renter is renovating a structure or cleaning up after a disaster, such as a fire.

The town falls under the county zoning code, so any restrictions on such structures would have to be made by the county board. Currently, such structures are largely unregulated, although they do require a permit from the county if they cost more than $2,500 or are greater than 200 square feet in size.

The city of Eagle River, which has its own zoning code, prohibits those structures in residential districts, Hartzheim said.

An Internet search reveals shipping containers and PODS being advertised in and around the greater Lakeland area. For now, it appears they are being used in commercial and industrial districts, says Hartzheim.

But a homeowner or renter might buy one because it’s larger than a shed or yard barn and probably cheaper, especially now that lumber prices have soared this year. Some suppliers are advertising that they could be converted into “tiny houses” or cabins.

But many people find those storage units unattractive. They usually have the manufacturer’s or supplier’s name and other lettering on them. Another concern, even in commercial or industrial zoned districts, is a firm could group several or even many of them together and offer them for rent.

Hartzheim said he would contact the Wisconsin Towns Association to see what experience their members have had with them and any advice they could offer.

Director of public works Mark Pertile suggested the board recommend to the county that if it does allow such units, that they be required to be placed on a concrete pad and painted one solid color. The heavy steel containers could lean if not supported by a concrete pad, he said.

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