Warrenton bans shipping container homes, clarifies mobile home restriction

By: 
Adam Rollins
Staff Writer

The city of Warrenton is making clear that it isn’t interested in certain ‘alternative’ home construction materials that have become trendy in recent years. 

Warrenton’s Board of Aldermen on Nov. 19 passed a ban on homes that are built from repurposed shipping containers and homes that use straw bales as a major part of their structure. Aldermen also codified a restriction on new mobile homes being placed in most areas of the city.

Shipping container homes have grown in popularity in recent years because they are considered environmentally friendly and affordable. One or more steel freight containers form the structure, with exterior siding, windows and interior walls built into them.

Straw bale homes are an old alternative to purely wooden homes that have undergone a revival in some parts of the U.S. Straw bales fitted into the framing and covered in plaster function as both wall and insulation.

Warrenton’s ban on the “trendy” homebuilding materials is preventative — city officials said there aren’t any shipping container homes or straw bale homes currently in Warrenton.

The changes were recommended by city staff members. Ward 1 Alderman Cheryl Dyer said board members quickly agreed that these types of homes would not benefit the look or feel of the community.

“We’re a very traditional community, just like all of mid-America. I just don’t think we are quite ready for shipping container homes and straw bale homes,” Dyer commented. “I don’t think those are the kinds of structures that the majority of our residents would like to see sprout up here.”

For straw bale homes specifically, she said the city isn’t confident that the building material is structurally sound.

“We want structures that we know are stable, that are going to withstand midwestern weather,” Dyer explained.

As part of the same ordinance, aldermen also  included a prohibition on new mobile homes being placed anywhere outside of designated mobile home parks. 

Ward 2 Alderman Gary Auch said this actually has been existing city policy for some time, but now is more explicit. He said residents have generally been comfortable with limiting mobile homes to specific areas.

“It’s part of how you want to develop your neighborhood community, what you want that to look like and the investment people put in their property,” Auch commented.

He added that in many cities, restricting the location of mobile homes is a common way of protecting property values for homeowners.

There currently are a small number of mobile homes in the city that were in place prior to such a policy being enforced. These are “grandfathered” in and not subject to the current zoning restriction, Auch said.

If a future developer would want to bring in more mobile homes by creating a new park, they would have to come before the board of aldermen and request a conditional use permit to do so.  City ordinance limits mobile home parks to areas designated for agricultural use or high-density housing.

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