Tempers flared during Tuesday night's meeting of the Big Spring City Council, as the council approved a zoning ordinance designed to define and shape the use of modular homes, temporary workforce housing and “man camps” on a 4-2 vote.
The council opted to remove language from the ordinance which addresses the use of intermodal shipping containers — otherwise known as sea containers — and would, in its former incarnation, ban the use of the containers for housing purposes within the city limit.
The motion to approve the modified ordinance was made by District 1 Councilman Marcus Fernandez, with District 3 Councilman Glen Carrigan providing the second. Fernandez, Carrigan, District 2 Councilwoman Carmen Harbour and District 6 Councilman Marvin Boyd voted in favor of the exclusion, while Mayor Larry McLellan and District 4 Councilman Bobby McDonald voted against it. District 5 Councilman Raul Benavides was absent from the meeting.
The council approved first reading of the ordinance — including the ban on shipping container homes — during its July 9 meeting on a 4-3 vote, with Harbour, McDonald, Benavides and McLellan all voting in favor of the ban. Fernandez, Carrigan and Boyd voted against the previous measure.
The council heard from several local residents in favor of the use of the sea container homes, including former Big Spring mayor Cotton Mize, Norma Garcia, Don Avant and Dale Avant, the local entrepreneur spear-heading the use of the 320-square-feet homes.
The discussion became heated while Dale Avant was addressing the council and fielding a number of questions from McDonald, who said he believes the sea container homes do not represent the future of the Crossroads area.
“I can't see them competing with the stock of housing we have now,” McDonald said. “It's always around the fringe of things. It's not the standard. Would I go for one of these? I sure would, if it were for storage … what you have built, would it improve Big Spring?”
Avant's response was immediate.
“Yes,” he said loudly. “You ask me and I say yes. I'm telling you right now, they are a nice, suitable house and they are up to code. I understand you don't like the way they look and it has nothing to do with their function … If you appreciate our U.S. Army, we're letting these people be housed in these. If it's good enough for our Army and our students (referring to 14 students at Lubbock Christian University currently staying in similar quarters), surely it's good enough for someone who needs a house.”