Big Spring City Council approved first reading of an ordinance designed to define and shape the use of modular homes, temporary workforce housing and “man camps” on a 4-3 vote Tuesday night, much to the chagrin of at least one local family.
The ordinance — which was commissioned by the council in hopes of limiting the damaging effects of the oil boom associated with the Cline Shale discovery — takes a number of steps to regulate how the “man camps” and other temporary housing will be used within the city limits.
The ordinance, as presented Tuesday night, would also ban the use of modified sea containers as housing, a ban that drew scrutiny from several city council members and those in the audience, including Dale and Don Avant, who have already assembled more than a dozen of the 320-square-foot “homes” and are currently renting them.
“Everybody says these shipping containers, they're China, China, China,” Dale Avant told the council. “These shipping containers were invented in 1956 by a man in Massachusetts. That's the U.S.A. We're taking an American idea and making it better. I can't imagine a government, a city government would want to take an American idea, turn their back on it and say, 'You know what, I don't like the look of that.' You know, if I go to your house, I might not like the look of your house, either. I may not like the look of your car, but you know what? It isn't endangering anybody, so let it alone.”
Avant told the council the proposed ban scheduled to be considered by the council Tuesday caught him by surprise.
“I didn't think this was going to be this big of a thing when we started it,” Avant said. “It has kind of turned ridiculous, if you ask me. I really think someone needs to use some common sense.”
Council members Carmen Harbour (District 2), Bobby McDonald (District 4), Raul Benavides (District 5) and Mayor Larry McLellan all voted in favor of the ordinance, including the ban. Council members Marcus Fernandez (District 1), Glen Carrigan (District 3) and Marvin Boyd (District 6) voted against the measure, with both Fernandez and Carrigan speaking out against the ban on the sea container homes.