KINGMAN - Local businesses and private residents alike are angry with the City Council over rules regulating the placement of Conex containers on properties within city limits.
The text amendment in the city's zoning ordinance regarding cargo containers is once again under the microscope as staff was directed earlier this spring to bring clarity to the rules after two downtown businesses found themselves in the crosshairs of the city's code compliance department.
The container ordinance was relaxed significantly in 2014 when the Council expanded the number allowed in city areas zoned as industrial from one per acre to 10 per acre, provided they were shielded from view by a fence.
People who have been targeted claim there is a double standard, saying the city, Mohave County, and Kingman Unified School District all use Conex containers and so do private companies, such as Kingman Regional Medical Center and the Burlington-Santa Fe Railroad.
The alleged selective enforcement and flouting of the city's own rules gives ammunition to Tim Schritter, owner of Black Bridge Brewery, or Terry Thomson of the House of Hops.
And former City Councilman Pat McBrayer, who's mural-painted Conex sits in a vacant lot he owns next to the Walgreens on Stockton Hill Road, certainly looks for relief. McBrayer has spent $5,000 in legal fees fighting the city in court over its demand he remove the container.
The best of intentions
While McBrayer admits a business on Hall Street has complained about the container, saying it blocks his view, McBrayer said it was a desire to help the city that led him to place the container on the lot and have a Route 66-themed mural painted on it.
The container is empty. McBrayer said he put it on the property just prior to the International Route 66 Festival Kingman hosted in August of 2014.
"Remember the city was getting people to clean up their properties and make Kingman look nice for the festival? That was our idea," said McBrayer. "It was community service."
McBrayer said his second intent was to lend the container to service organizations, such as the U.S. Marine Corps Toys for Tots campaign, to use as storage.
"Unfortunately, it's under litigation and they are afraid they will be asked to move toys or coats or whatever."
McBrayer has a trial coming up in May. He will argue he has been discriminated against and that containers were legal in commercial areas when he put the container on the lot. He said the city uses containers at Southside Park, the fire department uses them for storage, the school district uses them and so do the hospital, railroad and other private businesses. None of them are fenced. McBrayer said the three-feet-high fence he put around his Conex met the letter of the law as no height requirement was in the original ordinance.
Container? What container?
Schritter has a pair of Conex containers in the patio area of the brewery on Beale Street. They have been repurposed at significant expense and are used as part of the brewing process or as an outdoor service bar.
Right up the street, Thomson also has a pair of Conex containers on the side of the building he owns that is home to House of Hops.
The difference, insofar as City Manager John Dougherty is concerned, is obvious. The brewery's containers have been modified. Both are refrigerated and, most important, they are shielded from public view in the fenced rear of the property.
Schritter was allowed to keep his containers, but Thomson was told he would have to put his behind the building surrounded by a fence high enough to block them from view.
"He said, 'No. I want to put them on Beale,'" said Dougherty. Thomson has placed the containers on the side of the building and constructed a fence of sorts out of pallets. There is a sitting area with games.
Dougherty said there is a personal dispute between Thomson and Schritter, but Schritter said he supports Thomson's use of the containers despite a longstanding grudge that dates back nearly a decade - before either man opened downtown drinking establishments.
"It's obvious me and him have our differences," said Schritter. "But I think his business is great for downtown. You just won't see us sharing a cup of coffee in the morning."
No common sense
Schritter also believes he should be grandfathered, as placement of the containers pre-dates the zoning change.
None of that mattered the day before Thanksgiving, when a building official told Schritter he had to get rid of the containers or he would be guilty of a misdemeanor.
"I didn't even get a day in court," he said, noting he has spent $9,000 insulating and refrigerating the containers. Like McBrayer, Schritter said the city is the worst violator of its own rules.
"City government is in violation 33 times," he said. "I just think sometimes common sense could go a long way and that isn't happening."
Repeated attempts to speak with Thomson were unsuccessful. On Tuesday, the City Council postponed a couple of items regarding House of Hops' request for a temporary liquor license extension that would allow patrons to consume alcohol at the outdoor area on the side of the building at 312 E. Beale Street.
Nobody from the business was there and both requests were tabled until the May 3 meeting.
Thomson left a message with the Miner alleging the Council's decision was motivated by the container controversy.