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A sea of shipping containers stored in Delta, temporarily

Ten Delta sites are permitted to store shipping containers while a number of others have temporary use permits
The city has a policy that includes guidelines for outdoor storage of shipping containers applied to assess temporary use permit applications. Sandor Gyarmati/Delta Optimist

Thousands of empty shipping containers are currently being stored within the City of Delta on a temporary basis and more are coming.

Council last week approved a pair of temporary use applications to allow shipping container storage at a pair of industrial properties, one in the 7900-block of Webster Road and the other in the 8600-block of River Road.

A staff report notes the total number of 20 and 40-foot-equivalent units approved under current temporary use permits is 6,460, while temporary use permits under review can accommodate a further 3,575 containers.

In 2007, council adopted a bylaw which prohibited outside shipping container storage as a principal use in Delta’s industrial zones, except in the Marine Terminal Industrial Zone in certain industrially-zoned sites. Outside shipping container storage is permitted as an accessory use in any industrial zone provided no more than 20-twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) are stored on a lot.

When the bylaw was passed, 10 sites that were being used for outside shipping container storage at the time were exempted from the bylaw and have been allowed to continue storing shipping containers. The Webster Road property was not among the exempted properties.

Concerns were conveyed to the city about the Webster Road application, which would accommodate 264 units, including traffic congestion challenges for surrounding businesses and their customers.

The applicant submitted a traffic impact assessment and agreed to implement mitigating measures to ensure that there would be no truck queuing on Webster Road, including an on-site staging area.

Council granted a three-year permit to allow the units to be stored on part of the site, which home to a trucking company.

The River Road property, meanwhile, is a long and narrow former landfill site which had a temporary outdoor storage permit of up to 560 shipping containers. The most recent temporary use permit expired in September 2022. The owner applied for a new temporary use permit that would allow for the storage of up to 1,824 units.

The Delta staff report notes the owner applied for a temporary use permit in response to their customers’ need for the service as the volume of shipping containers entering the Port of Vancouver has been steadily increasing since 2019. The Port of Vancouver Statistics Overview (2021) shows an increase of eight percent in the number of TEUs entering the port between 2019 and 2021.

To mitigate traffic concerns, the site would also have a staging area that is to be sufficient to prevent trucks from queuing on River Road.

A three-year temporary use permit, in effect until September 2025, was granted.