Thursday, November 17, 2016

Greenville, NC Considers New Regulations for Tiny Houses

North Carolina’s Pitt County's Planning Board sent the Board of Commissioners two proposals that would increase who receives mailed public hearing notices and further define recreational vehicles and tiny homes.

The planning board's unanimous recommendations were made during its Wednesday meeting. The two items are scheduled for a Dec. 19 public hearing before the Board of Commissioners.

Staff recommended changing the zoning ordinance text on recreational vehicles and tiny houses because the state's departments for insurance and public health recently provided some guidelines clarifying how certain types of RVs should be set up and occupied.

The proposed changes define the difference between a tiny house and a recreational vehicle. The new definition states a tiny house and its foundation must comply with the state's residential building code. If it is built off-site and transported, it must be inspected and certified under the state's modular construction program. If it is built through the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development's manufactured housing construction program, it will be permitted and inspected as a manufactured home.

If a tiny house does not comply with either set of rules and is built on a trailer frame with axles and wheels, it is considered a recreational vehicle and is not acceptable as a permanent dwelling.

The definition of an RV park also is changed. Currently, a site or tract of land has to have spaces for 15 or more RVs or campsites to fall into the RV category and its requirements, Nottingham said. The staff said the number should be reduced to three.

The proposed changes require recreational vehicles to meet setback requirements for single-family homes, meaning the lots must have 30 feet to 40 feet in the front of the property and 10 feet on the sides and rear.

Recreational vehicles cannot be permanent residences until they meet specific building codes. Nottingham said there was not a clear definition of temporary occupancy so the county adjusted the definition and lengthened the amount of time a person could temporarily live in a recreational vehicle from three months to 180 days in a consecutive 12-month period.

Planning board member R.J. Hemby asked how the county would enforce the 180-day limits on living in an RV. Nottingham said it would be difficult to enforce and likely would require neighbors reporting violations.

The changes will go in effect Jan. 1 if commissioners approve the request in December. The rules are only for unincorporated areas of Pitt County.

The other proposed change in zoning ordinance text governs who receives mailed notices when there is a public hearing on a zoning change request, a special-use permit request and other issues involving zoning.

The state mandates mailed notices should go out to adjacent property owners; the county typically has sent notices to individuals whose property is within 100 feet of the property being considered, planner Eric Gooby said.

However, in some heavily developed areas, property owners outside the 100-foot radius often want to comment on the proposals and complain they did not receive proper notice. Staff wants to extend the mailing areas to 500 feet from the property being considered.

Gooby used a recent zoning request involving property on Eastern Pines Road to highlight the need. Seventeen pieces of property fell within the 100-foot radius. If the 500-foot requirement was in place, notices would have gone to an additional 47 homes.

While the 500-foot requirement would increase the department's postage costs, the additional money is available, Gooby said.

Like the RV and tiny house amendments, these changes would go in effect Jan. 1 if approved by the commissioners in December.

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