Category Archives: Maine

10/25 Portland, Maine tells owner of tiny RV homes in Bayside: Hit the road

Brent Adler stands in front of his tiny houses

Brent Adler, who owns residential buildings around Portland, contends tiny homes are allowed because they are essentially recreational vehicles, but the city says he’s violating the land use code. “I don’t know what we’re going to do,” he said. Photos by Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

City officials have given a local property owner 30 days to remove two unusual dwelling units in Portland, Maine’s Bayside neighborhood that they say violate the city’s land use code.

The owner also has the option to seek building permits, but it’s not clear the non-traditional homes would qualify, even with potentially expensive upgrades such as a new water main to the property.

“I don’t know what we’re going to do,” said property owner Brent Adler, who has tenants ready to move into two units on Chapel St. on Nov. 1.

The offending structures are two tiny homes perched atop trailers that have their wheels hidden by flashing to give the appearance of a foundation. The units, each with roughly 400 square feet of living space, have been hooked up to electrical, water and sewer lines.

Adler, who owns residential buildings in the city, said he believes the tiny homes are allowed because they are essentially recreational vehicles and he could not find any language in the city’s land use code prohibiting him from parking RV units on his land and renting them out.

However, Michael Russell, the city’s director of permitting and inspections, said in an email Tuesday that RV parks are not addressed in the code and are therefore prohibited.

“Any use that is not specifically allowed in the zoning ordinance is disallowed,” Russell said.

City officials issued Adler a notice of violation Friday for “erecting structures without a permit.”

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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 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. 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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08/14 Tiny house on wheels legally on its own land in Richmond, ME

Luke Lucier and Becky Deering stand on Sunday outside the house they built in Richmond. Luke Lucier and Becky Deering are used to drivers slowing down on Route 197 to take a look at their home.

Some even pull into the driveway.

Others — and this makes Deering a little nuts — slow way down in the middle of the road while someone in the back seat takes a photo.

“If we’re here and we aren’t doing anything, they should just stop in,” Lucier said.

You have to pay attention or you’ll miss it. At 220 square feet, including the loft, their green-shingled home with white trim is a tiny house, which they built and moved to the concrete slab just across from the Cotton Cemetery in May.

For Lucier, 35, and Deering, 29, making the switch from their rental home in southern Maine to this home was neither fast nor impulsive. “I think my dad mentioned it, but I didn’t put much thought into it,” Lucier said. He said that might have been about five years ago. But the idea slowly took root. “I pushed for it,” Deering said. “The freedom it gives us most people our age don’t have.”

Lucier is a self-employed carpenter in Cape Elizabeth, and as a side venture has started Tiny Houses of Maine. Deering is a veterinarian technician in Freeport.

“I looked into mortgages to get a house,” Deering said Sunday in her bright living room, but spending $50,000 on a down payment didn’t seem like the best option. Plus, she said, whatever they could afford would require time, effort and more money, in addition to their mortgage, to renovate.

A tiny house, for all its small size, offered quite a bit in exchange for their relatively modest investment of $35,000 to $40,000 for materials and fixtures, for which they paid out of pocket.

Generally, tiny houses range in size from 100 square feet to 400 square feet. They are, in execution, masterpieces of logic and efficiency. Because there is little space, there’s little space to waste. The main floor is home to living room, dining room, office (all in the same space), kitchen and bathroom, The upper floor, a sleeping loft, accommodates a king-size futon and clothing storage. Even the laundry is efficient in a combined washer-dryer. Heating and cooling the space is inexpensive and pretty straightforward with an air exchange system, and cleaning it is a snap.

“We can go out hiking on the weekend, come home and clean the house. In 10 minutes, it’s done,” Lucier said.

That convenience the is the fruit of a lot of labor. First, they had to find someone to fabricate the trailer that could bear the load of the house. And then they had to take a hard look at their lives, their stuff and how much space they would need to do even the simplest things.

“I made him pretend to shave,” Deering said. The point was trying to figure out how much space ought to be dedicated to the bathroom to be comfortable, In the end, they were able to shave a bit of space off the bathroom and add it to the kitchen, where they spend more time.

They had to pay attention to the size of the envelope of the house to avoid being oversize in transporting it.

And they had to pare down their personal belongings and pare down some more. “I threw a lot of stuff out,” Lucier said.

“Who needs 75 T-shirts or more than two pairs of shoes?” Deering wondered. “This has freed us up emotionally from the stress and toll all the stuff and everything to keep it up and spending the money takes.”

They feel as though they didn’t give up anything, though. Lucier still has the posters he collected while he was in the Navy, for instance, and there’s storage for books and their gear.

They chose Richmond because the town seemed more accepting of a tiny house than other communities.

Tiny houses are scattered across the state. In 2013, Waterville became host to a microhome, which at 624 square feet, is large for a tiny house.

Richmond code enforcement officer James Valley said a tiny house would be just about the only option for the property where Lucier and Deering planted their tiny home because of the stream that runs along the back side of the lot. The only requirement he imposed was putting an apron around the base of the house to cover up the trailer and making sure it had a second exit.

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Camping allowed on private land in North Yarmouth, ME

J. Individual-Private Campsites: Individual, private campsites not associated with campgrounds are permitted provided the following conditions are met:
1. One campsite per lot existing on the effective date of this Ordinance, or 30,000 square feet of lot area within the Residential Shoreland District or Resource Protection District, whichever is less, may be permitted.
2. Campsite placement on any lot, including the area intended for a recreational vehicle or tent platform, shall be set back 100 feet horizontal distance, from the normal high-water line of a water body, tributary streams, or the upland edge of the Deer Brook wetland or Knight’s Pond.
3. Only one recreational vehicle shall be allowed on a campsite. The recreational vehicle shall not be located on any type of permanent foundation except for a gravel pad, and no structure except a canopy shall be attached to recreational vehicles.
4. The clearing of vegetation for the siting of the recreational vehicle, tent or similar shelter in a Resource Protection District shall be limited to 1,000 square feet.
5. A written sewage disposal plan describing the proposed method and location of sewage disposal shall be required for each campsite and shall be approved by the Local Plumbing Inspector. Where disposal is off-site, written authorization from the receiving facility or landowner is required.
6. When a recreational vehicle, tent or similar shelter is placed on-site for more than 120 days per year, all requirements for residential structures shall be met, including the installation of a subsurface sewage disposal system in compliance with the State of Maine Subsurface Wastewater Disposal Rules unless served by public sewage facilities.
7. Camping on town park or recreation land is regulated by the Town of North Yarmouth Parks and Recreation Area Use and Regulation Ordinance. [Amended 6/18/11]


Building code map

Handy map of the US. Just click on your state (in the link, not on the picture) to see which building codes are in effect:

International Code Council Map

International Code Council map

Park Model RV Regulations, State-by-State

The RVIA has provided a table showing regulations by state for park model RVs

What is a park model? 

Below is a description from the RVIA:

On July 1, 2012, RVIA created a new membership category for manufacturers of park model RVs (PMRVs). A park model RV (also known as a recreational park trailer) is a trailer-type RV that is designed to provide temporary accommodation for recreation, camping or seasonal use. PMRVs are built on a single chassis, mounted on wheels and have a gross trailer area not exceeding 400 square feet in the set -up mode. They are certified by their manufacturers as complying with the ANSI A119.5 standard for recreational park trailers.

PMRVs are most often used in recreational vehicle campgrounds. They may be owned by the campground and rented to guests, or they may be brought in and used exclusively by their owners on a site rented or leased from the campground. They can also be placed by their owners on private property. These RVs are used for recreational purposes only. They are not meant to be permanently affixed to the property, they do not improve property values in any way, and they are neither designed nor intended by their manufacturers to be used as permanent residences.

Two different types of park model RVs are offered. One type is less than 8′ 6″ in width and is designed for frequent travel on the highways while the other and more popular type is wider than 8′ 6″ (usually 12′ in width), and must be transported with special movement permit. The 8′ 6″ unit typically is expandable when it reaches its destination utilizing slide-outs or tip-outs. The wider units, being less mobile, are usually sited in a resort or RV park location for an extended term, typically several years. Park model RVs are titled as vehicles by the various states. This is because PMRVs are built on permanent chassis such that they can be and are moved either within a campground or between campgrounds.

Free Online Zoning Codes

Here are two sources of online codes:

  • Municodes from the Nation’s leading legal publisher.
  • The American Legal Publishing Company provides a free online library of state and municipal codes for most locations. Click on the map to go to the library and chose your state and city. Then search or scroll for descriptions of minimum lot sizes, setback rules, etc.

    American Legal Publishing Compay online library

    American Legal Publshing Company online library

    Information is available for all states except these 13: AL, CO, ID, KS, LA, MO, MS, ND, NV, UT, VT, WA, WY.