Frequently Asked Questions

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Why is the Washoe County Code (cargo containers) being reviewed for possible change?

The Board of County Commissioners has asked staff to review the Washoe County Code related to cargo containers and the requirement to obtain a permit for those types of storage structures.  The intent of this review is to simplify Washoe County Code.



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What does current Washoe County Code say about cargo containers?

In current Washoe County Code chapter 100 (Building Code), “Any owner or authorized agent who intends to construct, enlarge, alter, repair, move, demolish, or change the occupancy of a building or structure…”  is required to obtain a building permit, unless that structure is less than 200 square feet in size.  While these types of storage structures do not require a permanent foundation, and are considered personal property, they are not “temporary” structures in terms of the Building Code which defines temporary structures as being in place for no more than 180 days.  



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Why are some cargo containers under different rules?

Containers placed prior to July 3, 2009, follow a somewhat different set of rules for code compliance and are not relevant to changes made on Oct. 27, 2015, for cargo containers.



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What happened that started the discussion?

In October 2015, the Board of County Commissioners amended the Code to relieve some of the requirements specific to temporary use of cargo containers.  Members of the public became concerned that the change required permits for all containers. 

  • Since 2009 cargo containers have required the issuance of a permit for placement on a lot within unincorporated Washoe County if the container was larger than 200 square feet.
  • In the revised code, a separate permit is no longer required to utilize cargo containers for temporary storage at a permitted construction site.
  • Additionally the revised code allows commercial vehicles to be stored outside on properties in conjunction with ongoing construction activities that have a valid building permit. 


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Is a permit required for a permanent cargo container?

Yes, if the container is larger than 200 square feet in size.  Since at least July 3, 2009, a permit has been required for using cargo containers on properties within unincorporated Washoe County. Containers smaller than 200 square feet in size do not require a permit.



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What changes were recently made to the code regarding cargo containers?

On Oct, 27, 2015, the changes to the development code did the following: clarified the organization structure, tied the development code to the current building code, replaced terms for different storage structures to the term cargo container which has a definition in the code, and lessens the requirements related to temporary use of cargo containers within Washoe County.

Code

1.   Organization/structure, name changes, and format changes:

a.   Director of Community Development changed to Director of the Planning and Development Division.

b.   Department of Community Development changed to Planning and Development Division.

c.   Building and Safety Department changed to Building and Safety Division.

d.   District Health Department changed to Health District.

e.   Listing only the number or figure rather than both [e.g., 11 instead of eleven (11)]  No numbers were changed just the way they were listed in the text.

2.   Section 1, WCC Section 110.306.10, Detached Accessory Structures (subsection g, Cargo Containers):

a.   Modified subsection 13 to require a building permit when the cargo container is more than the allowable exempted square footage in WCC Chapter 100, rather than citing 120 square feet.  The 120 square feet was changed to 200 square feet with amendments to WCC Chapter 110 in 2014;  however, this Development Code section was not updated.  Using the term “allowable” rather than a specific square footage will minimize future required Development Code amendments.

3.   Section 2, WCC Section 110.306.35, Outdoor Storage/Outdoor Display:

a.   Subsection (c)(1), Commercial Vehicles Defined.  Modify the definition of Commercial Vehicles to change the term “cement truck” to “concrete truck”, which is a more comprehensive definition for such vehicles.

b.   Subsection (c)(2), Exceptions.  Add subsection iv to exempt commercial vehicles used in conjunction with on-going construction activities having a valid building permit.  This new subsection extends the current general exceptions to outdoor storage in subsection (d)(1) (exception if temporarily stored for the purpose of construction and during the time permitted by a valid building permit) to the outdoor storage of commercial vehicles.

4.   Section 3, WCC Section 110.310.35, Mobile Homes, Manufactured Homes, Travel Trailers, Commercial Coaches and Recreational Vehicles:

a.   Subsection (h), Temporary Contractor or Owner-builder’s Materials or Equipment Trailers and/or Portable Storage Containers.  Replace the terms “trailers”, “portable storage containers”, and “temporary factory built units” with “cargo containers”.  Cargo containers are defined in WCC Section 110.306.10(g) as follows:

(g)        Cargo Containers, to include Sea-land Containers, Cargo Containers or Other Portable Storage Containers not Designed for Independent or “In-tow Trailer” Highway Use.  Cargo containers designed and constructed as a standardized, reusable vessel to be loaded on a truck, rail car or ship may be established as a detached accessory structure for the sole purpose of storage with the following restrictions:

The current codes refer to “trailers” and “portable storage containers”.  Neither term is defined in the Development Code nor are these terms used elsewhere in the Development Code.  Replacing both of these terms with “cargo containers” will allow the public and staff to refer to WCC Section 110.306.10(g) for a definition of “cargo container”. The term “cargo containers” includes portable storage containers as currently written within this subsection (allowing a person to temporarily use a portable on-demand storage container with a valid building permit as currently authorized in Code).  Using a defined term makes it easier for the public and staff to understand and conform to this subsection’s regulations.  



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What’s next regarding cargo containers?

Given Board direction at the Oct. 27, 2015 meeting, staff is currently reviewing the reasoning behind the requirement for a building permit on “structures” that are pre-manufactured and utilized for storage without electrical and plumbing.  A discussion regarding these types of uses is tentatively scheduled to be brought before the Board in February 2016.



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How can I share a positive CSD experience?

Email us at CSDSuperstars@washoecounty.us.  We'd love to hear your story and recognize our staff for their hard work!



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