Larry Garza waited more than a year for the arrival Friday of two 9,000-pound shipping containers at his business, Aztec Bolting Services.
He had the vision, the plan and the money to use the shipping containers for storage at his 520 Dallas St. business, which provides bolting tools and services to the oil and chemical plants and to operators of wind turbines.
But Garza had to wait so long, in part, because the city only changed the ordinance regulating shipping containers in April. Before then, it was illegal to have the metal cargo boxes used on ships, trains and trucks in a permanent spot.
Businesses in League City now can legally use shipping containers for storage if owners follow some rules. The containers have to be in commercial zones and they have to be attractive. No one can live in them.
The city council amended the code in April to allow shipping containers for use as accessory structures in commercial and industrial zones.
But since that time, the city has only issued five permits for shipping containers, the building department staff said. More commercial owners have asked for the permits, but their requests are still in the review process and some have incomplete applications, staff said.
Others could be ignoring the ordinance, Garza said.
Garza delayed plans from 2016 to put two shipping containers for storage at his business after League City officials told him such structures weren’t allowed.
On his walk to city hall from his business on Dallas Street, Garza had seen several examples of the containers and pointed out what he saw as a contradiction. A city planner told him to report any violations he found, Garza said.
“I took that as a challenge,” he said.
Garza documented 28 examples, then spoke to the city council about the ordinance that didn’t seem to fit the needs of the business community.
The city sent letters to the offending businesses and told them to move the containers or pay a hefty fee. Many businesses complained in turn to Mayor Pat Hallisey.
That led to the planning department studying what other cities in the area were doing and then drafting language that would accommodate the needs of businesses without hurting the appearance of the city.
The League City Regional Chamber of Commerce formed a task force a year ago, also, in part to address concerns of the business community as the city grows and develops.
The task force is finalizing a white paper full of its recommendations on the city’s master plan, Chamber President Steve Paterson said. But it also has facilitated conversations between businesses and the city, working to point out needless regulations while promoting the city’s goal of a high quality of life.
Likewise, Hallisey put together a series of conversations between developers and city staff to hammer out differences between the practical and affordable methods with a higher standard for the community.
Containers don’t have to be ugly, Garza said. His containers will have an attractive privacy fence that should be in place in a couple of months, he said.
Garza has his permit and has worked with the city to get approval for using the containers as climate-controlled inventory units. An engineer had to sign off on the foundations, he said.
Some of his clients also will store some equipment in the new storage areas inside the shipping containers, Garza said.
Garza took a lot of hits from other business owners after the city sent out warning letters, but a lot of that heat has died down now that owners can get permits for the containers.
“We were dodging bullets and firing darts,” Garza said.
Garza never saw himself as pushing his own agenda, and he was always willing to step back and let events take their natural course, he said.
“I was patient,” Garza said.