The second was to explore a proposed ordinance regarding the minimum size for detached single family dwellings. Beech Mountain currently has no minimum size, so it falls in with the state’s policy, which Scott believes to be 200 square feet. [Note: this is not precisely correct, although practically a good estimate. NC law requires that homes meet the 2012 International Residential Code which requires a house have at least one room that is 120 sq ft or larger, so with a kitchen and bath, a tiny house meeting the 2012 code would likely be at least 200 sq ft.] After going over all of the detached single family dwellings in the town, Scott proposed a minimum size of 800 square feet, which aligns with the smallest known dwelling in town limits.
The Town Council denied an appeal filed by Peter and Shannon Johnson, who challenged an August administrative decision that ruled the couple’s 200-square-foot home could not be used as a permanent residence.
Acting as judges Tuesday night, council members unanimously upheld Town Administrator Paul Loveless’ position that the couple’s home is considered a recreational vehicle and as such the couple can’t live in it full time. Town regulations do not allow people to permanently live in an RV.
The decision came after two hours of a quasi-judicial hearing where the Johnsons argued the town’s code doesn’t exclusively state it is illegal to use an RV as a place to eat, sleep or live.
Following the ruling, the Johnsons said they were disappointed, but not surprised.
“We could pretty much tell they were going to deny it,” Peter Johnson said.
The couple said the impression they got from town officials leading up to the hearing is “this is how it’s been, this is how it’s going to be,” Shannon Johnson said.
Peter Johnson said he was frustrated that Mayor Ron Lucas, acting as the hearing’s facilitator, repeatedly shot down Johnson’s attempt to argue his case based on a proposed change to town code.
That change, recommended by the town planning commission, would further restrict RV use by limiting how long people can stay in RVs. Peter Johnson questioned the necessity of the stepped-up restrictions if town code, as city officials claim, already prohibits living in an RV.
“I believe that the act of looking at new ordinances confirms the ordinances don’t exist as they were enforced,” he argued.
Lucas said the council can’t consider a “hypothetical” code change that may or may not pass. The council could only consider regulations currently in place, Lucas said.
Town Attorney Larry Hoffman argued the Johnsons knew they were wading into a gray area of zoning regulations before they moved into the tiny house Peter Johnson built on a flatbed trailer.
He cited email communication between Peter Johnson and town planner Doug Fortner in which Fortner told him the town did not have regulations specific to tiny houses.
Fortner referred to minimum square footage requirements in the International Residential Building Code that require a home to have at least 120 square feet of habitable space, a second room with a minimum of 70 square feet and a minimum height of 7 feet.
Fortner also noted if the couple wanted to build a secondary structure on their property, known as an accessory dwelling unit, it would have to be a minimum 320 square feet. The town allows these structures on lots with a minimum of 9,600 square feet in some residential areas.
The Johnsons’ tiny house, which sits on a 120-square-foot trailer base and is estimated to be a total of 200 square feet, doesn’t meet the building size minimums. The Johnsons’ property on First Street also is not eligible for an accessory dwelling unit because the lot is too small.
Read more and watch the video: http://www.thenewstribune.com/news/local/article112060762.html
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.”