Container home (copy)

David Hochhaus walks down the steps of the deck attached to a container home project he is overseeing at 11th Street and Colcord Avenue. The home led city council members to ask for a set of zoning standards they could consider applying to residential buildings based on shipping containers.

Waco City Council members appeared skeptical Tuesday of homes made of repurposed shipping containers, saying they could disrupt neighborhoods.

At the council’s request, staff presented a slate of compatibility standards that would require shipping container homes to meet width and height requirements consistent with surrounding homes, and to include similar exterior building materials and major architectural elements comparable to other structures in the area they are built.

Councilwoman Alice Rodriguez said she is opposed to all residential developments made with shipping containers.

“It worries me that we would allow shipping containers as residential in a residential area,” Rodriguez said. “It really worries me. I’ve never been inside a shipping container, thank goodness, but that being said, I’m very uncomfortable allowing someone to say it’s OK for them to live in a shipping container in a residential area.”

Rodriguez, a longtime advocate for neighborhoods who is leaving the council in May, said she does not know anyone who would want to live in a shipping container.

Councilman Dillon Meek raised the issue late last year when a developer, David Hochhaus, started converting a shipping container into a house in Meek’s district at the intersection of North 11th Street and Colcord Avenue.

On Tuesday, Meek said he would support shipping containers in residential areas as long as there is no container material exposed on the finished building’s exterior.

Hochhaus’ development in the Brook Oaks Neighborhood would not be subject to any new regulations. The project is currently being evaluated by city officials.

“I’m very in favor of being innovative and forward but for the residential-specific I just think there’s a lot of risk,” Meek said. “I would love it if people would do this but I think it’d be best if they were cased with materials that are completely consistent (with the neighborhood).”

When Rodriguez asked if she should visit the container home at the intersection of Colcord Avenue and North 11th Street, Meek said it’s “probably not a good one to be inspired by.”

City planning director Clint Peters, who presented compatibility standards for the council to consider, said the city Plan Commission is scheduled to hold a public hearing on the matter March 26 and the council is scheduled to hold one April 16.

Council members asked if standards could be higher in areas with historical architecture, but the lack of official designations of historic neighborhoods could prevent that.

Mayor Kyle Deaver said the council would consider public input and a recommendation from the Plan Commission before considering any action on the standards Peters presented.

Energy talks

City Manager Wiley Stem III presented recommendations to the council from the Sustainable Resource Practices Advisory Board. The recommendations call on the city to explore clean energy and air quality implementation strategies.

Authored by Stem, who sits on the board representing the Heart of Texas Council of Governments, the letter asks for consideration of renewable energy sources, electric vehicles and energy audits.

“I’m glad overall that we’re looking at this,” Councilman John Kinnaird said. “Because I do think that being good stewards both of the environment and of our citizens and their tax dollars require us to come in with some of these solutions but to do so in a practical and cost-effective way.”

In the council’s business session, a dozen people urged the council to quickly take action on climate change.

Alan Northcutt, a local physician, called for the city to hire a professional consultant to develop a climate action plan.

In other business, the council finalized its approval of almost $7.4 million in downtown Tax Increment Financing Zone money for an Embassy Suites hotel on South Second Street and an adjacent parking garage that will include public spots.

The council also approved a $3.6 million contract for pavement, curb and gutter improvements along Old Hewitt Road, Bagby Avenue and New Road.

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