Category Archives: Vermont

07/18 Tiny lifestyle meets challenges in Vermont

Ethan Walden, 31, is pictured on the front porch of his Morrisville tiny home he built in 2012.

Ethan Walden, 31, is pictured on the front porch of his Morrisville tiny home he built in 2012. Photo by Rikki Snyder

Chrissy Bellmyer is one of many Vermont tiny home owners forced to live ‘under the radar.’

Bellmyer built her Chittenden County home in the summer of 2015 and moved in the following January. Her home is near Essex, she said, but declined to say where exactly because she’s worried about zoning and building code complaints.

Tiny houses, which are often considered to be 400 square feet or less, are rapidly growing in popularity around the country as an alternative to traditional housing. The average American home is 2,600 square feet, according to the Census Bureau.

When tiny houses are placed on the ground they are expected to follow the normal city requirements for a house, said David White, the Burlington director of planning and zoning. This includes being connected attached to municipal services, as well as having an attached driveway and parking area.

Bellmyer, 27, made the switch after learning about the movement through blogs and social media. She now has her own blog,, where she documents her tiny lifestyle and provides tips for those interested in doing the same.

“I was just kind of drawn to that idea of simple living,” she said.

Cost was another selling-point. The median sale price for a Chittenden County home is $250,000.

“The housing market is really expensive in Vermont,” Bellmyer said.

“I couldn’t afford a traditional home, so building a tiny house was a good alternative option.”

Bellmyer built the home in Crown Point, New York, with the help of friends, family and a contractor. The 240-square-foot house is built on an 8-foot-by-24-foot trailer from Tumbleweed Tiny House Co. and took six months to complete.

The home was constructed almost entirely with repurposed materials, many from the ReSource Store in Burlington. She found kitchen cabinets from friends and repurposed wood for siding.

“It’s just kind of a more simple lifestyle,” Bellmyer said of living small. “You have a lot more freedom, but at the same time, a lot more restrictions because your living space is so small.”

The environmental benefits of a tiny house are often a draw for prospective owners.

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12/16 Will Micro Homes Multiply in Burlington?

Ruby Perry and Andy Simon’s 400 sq ft house in their daughter's backyard in  Burlington, VT

Ruby Perry and Andy Simon’s 400 sq ft house in in their daughter’s backyard in Burlington, VT

When Ruby Perry and her husband, Andy Simon, were building their 400-square-foot house in Burlington’s South End last year, it became the talk of the Five Sisters neighborhood. That’s not surprising: It’s one of the smallest houses in Burlington, and it took shape as the national fascination with the tiny-house movement was inspiring documentaries, TV shows, do-it-yourself classes and conventions.

The red clapboard dwelling on Locust Street is interesting for another reason, too: It’s not tucked into the woods or sitting on a semirural lot; it’s plunked down in a city backyard. So, are super-small houses viable in an urban setting?

Perry answers that question with a resounding yes. For starters, if living in small quarters starts to feel confining, a city like Burlington offers an estate-size array of activities and amenities. Also, she suggests, tiny houses are ideal for urban infill in tight spots.

Could tiny houses be a solution to Burlington’s housing shortage? And can anyone erect a tiny house in their backyard? Not necessarily — Burlington’s zoning codes make the prospect tenuous, depending on where and what is proposed.

But where there’s a will, there’s a way. It “should not be daunting to anyone,” Perry says. “We treated it as a community building process and met early, and often, with our neighbors as well as planning and zoning.” The house she and Simon built is located in their daughter and son-in-law’s backyard and owned by the young couple, who are raising a toddler. The arrangement is an exercise in estate planning: The grandparents paid for the $75,000 structure and took charge of the permitting and construction, knowing it would be a way to give their assets to the next generation in advance.

The house was allowed as an “accessory dwelling,” defined under the city’s 376-page zoning ordinance as an efficiency or one-bedroom unit that is “subordinate” to, and does not exceed 30 percent of the total habitable floor area of, a single-family dwelling.

The little red house also had to stay within a 35 percent lot-coverage limit in the neighborhood, which is zoned as residential low density, meaning it’s a district intended primarily for single-family detached dwellings and duplexes.

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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.