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Tiny house zoning revisions

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By Saturday, Jan 12, 2019 Letters 4

To the editor:

Thank you for posting the proposed Great Barrington zoning revisions (see below). The Edge, in making  available the new plan, the result of forward-thinking and much hard work, is a great service to the community. Here is what is proposed:

ARTICLE: Tiny Houses as Accessory Dwelling Units

Amend Section 11, Definitions, to add the following new definition:

Movable Tiny Houses (MTH): A structure intended for the separate, independent living quarters of one household for year-round residence that meets all of the following: (a) Is licensed and registered with the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles; (b) Meets the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) 119.5 requirements, and certified by a qualified third party inspector for ANSI compliance; (c) Cannot move under its own power; (d) Has not less than 150 and no more than 430 square feet of habitable living space, excluding lofts; (e) Is designed and built using conventional residential building materials for windows, roofing and exterior siding.

May I make a few suggestions? First, if you added to (b) “Or if constructed within the jurisdiction, meets the requirements of, and is certified by the Building Inspector.” The Building Inspector (with authority equal to ANSI within the town) could conduct his usual inspections. A resident could buy a frame and build the MTH in the driveway. Movable Tiny Houses could also be constructed by students at the high school, inspected and sold locally. Second, if you changed the minimum area in (d) to 115 square feet, you could use the 16 foot MTH trailer as a bedroom or playroom for summer guests or children. Third, placing the MTH in the Accessory Dwelling Unit zoning category would require a sewer or septic connection. Unless I’m missing something, this would require a small shallow basement under the trailer extending to below the frost line which is neither easy nor practical. For full-time living, a composting  toilet would be sufficient. The bathroom in the main house, battery-powered lights, a window with a screen and a propane heater in the winter would provide bedroom luxury undreamed of by the people who lived here less than a century ago.

As an example, the trailer frame shown is made by Heavy Hauler near Albany. It is 16 feet by 100 inches, rated at 7,000 lbs, and cost $3,195. This seems to be the closest location and a good design.

I would be happy to help the Building Inspector write a specification with illustrations of what he would accept for a do-it-yourself MTH. Allowing the Building Inspector to use his jurisdiction keeps the manufacturing business and capital within Great Barrington. Movable Tiny Homes should be built locally. Thanks again!

Leif M. Steinert


4 Comments   Add Comment

  1. Jonathan Hankin says:

    The building inspector inspects for conformance with the Mass building code. The International Residential Code has drafted an Appendix Q to address tiny houses which Mass may adopt in the next three years. Nothing in the proposed bylaw would prevent a home built MTH as long as it is inspected by a qualified inspector.

  2. Sage Radachowsky says:

    Although honestly, as with the legalization of weed lately, i just think it’s so much ado about nothing and making mountains out of molehills but ok that’s how our stupid society works. They’ll stop persecuting people who do things that make sense then they’ll over-regulate the shit out of it until they choke the real beauty and spark of life out of it, it’s sad. By the way, I can design them much better than this one. This is a box with beds. I can also draw using Sketchup. Anyone want a great tiny house? I can build it for you! Very experienced, the most experience tiny house carpenter in Berkshire County.

    So… first they persecute you for building a tiny house, then they adopt and co-opt your ideas and the rich profit from it.

    But anyway, remember my name. I have built and lived in tiny houses for many years now, even hiding from the inspectors in Boston, and reported by the police… and forced to move. But then they suddenly think it’s alright and then the rich invest in their “tiny house company” and it becomes 3X more expensive than it needs to be and regulated to heck… the spark of creativity largely gone from it, and it becomes another trendy thing for the well off hipsters to get…

    But anyway, hire me. I am the best and crankiest tiny house carpenter in the county, with the most experience, and i wrote the book on it, the one that nobody reads.

    1. Tom Warner says:

      I can say for sure Sage is the man to call to make a tiny house!
      He has the skills and the imagination to make a project work.

      1. Sage Radachowsky says:

        Thank you, Tom. I appreciate the vote of confidence. I was fairly cranky when i wrote that comment, as is surely evident in my text. I know the picture was merely a visual for the letter, and not anyone’s masterpiece design. I also know that other people are fully able to build good tiny houses (although i’ve seen a fair number of tiny houses very poorly designed and/or constructed as well, so it IS very important to have a good design and build person or team).

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