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Regulation of tiny houses proposed

by Eplunus Colvin | January 13, 2022 at 2:47 a.m.
Inspection & Zoning officials have reported numerous storage units being converted into tiny homes, which has led to a debate over how such units would be classified in the city building code. (Pine Bluff Commercial/Eplunus Colvin)

The popular tiny house movement has made its way to Pine Bluff, but Inspection & Zoning Department officials say what is taking place is illegal simply because Pine Bluff does not have any regulations for them.

To establish some clarity, Inspection & Zoning presented a proposed ordinance during the Development and Planning Committee meeting Wednesday to establish building codes and use classification for tiny houses.

The amended ordinance states tiny houses, a dwelling or structure intended for a dwelling that is 400 feet or less in floor area excluding lofts, must meet building code.

Inspection & Zoning official Lakisha Hill said she has received several requests for tiny homes and has also had to enforce the removal of storage units that have been converted into tiny homes.

The amended ordinance would require tiny homes with wheels to follow the same rules and regulations as a recreational vehicle and would only be permitted in a mobile home or RV Park.

Prefabricated structures are allowed, according to the ordinance, only when the conversion from the storage building to residence has taken place and been approved by the city Inspection & Zoning Department prior to being placed in the city.

Hill said building plans showing that the structure complies with building codes must be submitted. Also, storage units from Lowe's or Home Depot would be prohibited because they don't include building plans.

Committee Chairman Bruce Lockett had several issues with the amended ordinance. He felt tiny homes would start popping up all over town and that people would just buy a storage unit and turn it into a dwelling unit.

"It doesn't seem to be a zoning variance that a man builds a $250,000 home and a tiny house can be plopped right beside it," said Lockett.

Larry Reynolds, director of the Southeast Arkansas Planning Commission, said the tiny houses would be restricted to R4 zones but the owner would still have to go through the planning commission for approval. According to Reynolds, the R4 zone is the least restrictive residential zone and allows smaller lots and smaller homes. Those areas included the Westside and the university area.

Reynolds said there is a problem with illegal tiny homes in the city.

"There is one off of Oakwood. Somebody moved into a portable building that you can buy from Lowe's that has a front porch on it," he said. "It's illegal."

Alderman Steven Mays was not in agreeance with the ordinance. He felt the tiny homes would only be in the Fourth Ward.

Hill said regulations tell what can be placed on a lot, and that a tiny home built from the ground up can be built on any lot in the city.

"You can go into another area of town unless there is a subdivision regulation that says that your house must be a certain size," she said.

"I would say no because it will open up a can of worms," Mays said, feeling the legislation was bad for the city. "You will have people coming in here building them by the hospital and everywhere."

Lockett felt neighborhoods should be regulated but Mays was adamant about not having a tiny home community in the Fourth Ward.

Lockett said he liked the idea of a tiny house community as opposed to dispersing tiny homes throughout the city.

"If you create a tiny house community where it's allowable, encouraged and that's where you can put some of them, I can go with that," said Lockett. "I definitely could support a tiny house community."

Lockett expressed there could be some opposition based on their housing value.

"Even in the Fourth Ward, you have some nice houses. You throw a tiny house right beside it and I can see where that homeowner would have some problems," he said.

Hill said tiny homes were trending, especially in suburbs and areas that have a county affiliation.

"I've seen these. They are beautiful and all over the country," Pine Bluff Mayor Shirley Washington said, adding she was interested in building one for herself. "You do have tiny house subdivisions and these architectural companies are doing some very top-quality tiny houses and they make very nice neighborhoods."

Washington said the tiny houses were affordable for those who couldn't afford a standard size home.

Lockett said his greatest fear is that people will start buying storage units from Lowe's.

"I don't have a problem with developing tiny homes but this business of going and getting you a $900 storage building and want to turn it into a house -- that's what we have to work on, " said Lockett.

Because the verbiage in the ordinance was not made clear Lockett wanted the specifics discussed to be laid out before sending the ordinance to the full council.

Lockett and committee member Lloyd Holcomb Jr. voted on the motion to send the ordinance back to the Planning Commission, who will further review it and make the necessary changes and updates.

Mays, however, remained firm with his decision and voted against the motion.

Print Headline: Regulation of tiny houses proposed

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