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St. Charles City Council allows container homes in traditional neighborhoods — for now

The St. Charles City Council defeated a proposal Tuesday night that would have banned residents from building shipping-container houses in areas with only brick and siding homes.

But that's not the end of the controversy.

At the center of the flap is a home under construction on Elm Street. St. Charles residents Zack and Brie Smithey are building their 3,000-square-foot house out of eight railroad shipping containers.

Some residents love it and applaud its reliance on recycled materials, including the containers themselves. But others complain it's too different.

The council voted five to five against the proposed ordinance, which would have limited the construction of future container houses to areas zoned for mobile homes. It would have taken seven votes to pass the ordinance because it was rejected by the city's planning and zoning committee.

But Zack Smithey, a lifelong St. Charles resident, isn't celebrating. The council did not table the issue but decided to meet next Tuesday night in a work session to consider other ways of handling it. They could revise the ordinance or create a new one.

"I'm disappointed," Smithey, 34, said.

Smithey, who works as an artist, said there is more than container homes at stake.

"It's kind of offensive. My way of life is in a cross-hairs," Smithey said.

Smith was one of a dozen speakers to support the idea of no restrictions on container homes.

Bruce Evans, the city's director of community development, said the sheer number of speakers may have influenced the council to reject the ordinance. He said council members could decide next week to drop the matter altogether. Evans said he'll support any outcome.

"I trust our council," Evans said.

Neither this vote nor any future decision will affect the Smithey’s house. The couple have a permit and are in compliance with all city codes. They plan to paint the house taupe, and to move in with their two dogs, in September.

Follow Nancy Fowler on Twitter: @NancyFowlerSTL

Nancy is a veteran journalist whose career spans television, radio, print and online media. Her passions include the arts and social justice, and she particularly delights in the stories of people living and working in that intersection.