09/14 Tiny house, growing problem: The Pownal Planning Board begins talks on how the home-ownership trend can meet zoning ordinances.

John Rodrigue's tiny house

John Rodrigue, host at the Bradbury Mountain State Park campsite, wants to move his tiny house from there to a lot in town.

John Rodrigue, host at the Bradbury Mountain State Park since the end of May, lives in a tiny house there. Rodrigue would like to move the building, which takes up a mere 192 square feet, not including a 7-by-8-foot loft, to a lot somewhere in Pownal and keep the home on wheels.

A lengthy process likely awaits, and Rodrigue is aware of that. The process begins when the Pownal Planning Board meets at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 21, to discuss the subject of tiny houses, defined by tinyhousecommunity.com as a structure of 400 square feet or less.

“My goal is to work with the town of Pownal on a new zoning ordinance,” Rodrigue said. “It’s a process. It’s one thing about a tiny house owner – you have to endure the process. You’ve got to meet the hurdles and you’ve got to jump over them.”

Rodrigue was living in Brunswick when he had his dwelling built by Tiny House Crafters of Vermont at the end of May. His house has a small bathroom, the loft with a kitchenette below and what he calls a “great room.”

“The challenge of a tiny house right now in Maine is they don’t know how to classify them,” he said. “I’m trying to be at the forefront of this movement.”

The American Tiny House Association exists to support people “who are seeking creative and affordable housing as part of a more sustainable and self-reliant lifestyle.” The association offers tips on working with local government officials to increase acceptance of tiny houses – a growing trend in which people are choosing to downsize the space they live in.

Tinyhousecommunity.com acknowledges that size specifications for rooms, clearances and distances between fixtures and building codes are more difficult for tiny houses to meet. Small homes can easily meet building codes. But zoning is a challenge for both tiny and small homes, as many communities require houses to be 1,000 square feet or more, the association says.

Overall size, however, is not the only thing to consider when people ask the town for the right to site a tiny house on a lot. Safety, according to Roger Keith, Pownal’s code-enforcement officer, is paramount. That generally means a house, tiny or not, needs solid footing, running water, a grounded power source and a sewer system.

“Lots of tiny-house scenarios have to do with facilities,” Keith said. “People looking to save money don’t want to build a foundation, and want to put it on a platform. They want a composting system, and to carry in water. Nobody else can do it cheap. Everybody has to play by the rules.”

Ron Hodsdon, Pownal’s Planning Board chairman, said that the board heard from Rodrigue a few weeks ago.

“We didn’t have an answer for him,” Hodsdon said. “This (tiny houses) seems to be a coming thing. But we have no answers right now. We’re just talking about it.”

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