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Tiny house project raises concerns from neighbor

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A planned development of five "tiny houses" as part of a bed and breakfast enterprise in Orchard City is raising concerns from neighbors. Photo by Hank Lohmeyer

Orchard City's first "tiny house" development at 2100 and Iris roads is drawing concern from area neighbors who say they had no advance notice of the project. The Orchard City town board heard the concerns at its May 10 meeting.

Next door neighbors of the planned five-unit development, Mike and Jan Gage, had attorney Aaron Clay present their views.

Clay gave trustees a letter that states, "the town's failure to ensure compliance with the many municipal code provisions that govern such plans and the town's failure to consider the implications of such an endeavor" are issues needing to be resolved.

"The tiny house movement is a new and fast-growing trend and so it is understandable that the Orchard City municipal code does not specifically address tiny houses," the letter states. However, the letter goes on saying that "the town has failed to enforce its own municipal ordinances." Those ordinances require "consideration of neighboring agricultural lands and other property owners," the letter states and asks that at minimum a moratorium be placed on the tiny house development.

Three other neighborhood residents also expressed similar concerns at the meeting. The DCI has also learned that not all neighbors in the area are opposed to the project and spoke with one who supports it.

According to information provided about the development at the town board meeting and afterward, the five tiny houses will become part of an AirBNB bed and breakfast enterprise. One of the houses will be occupied by developer Judy Conn of Montrose and the other four used as short-term rentals. Conn could not be reached for comment on the project by deadline. Town staff told the DCI following the meeting that the development does not require review or approval by the town planning commission or town board. Thus, there has been no public notice issued by the town.

No structures had been permanently placed on the parcel as of last week. To proceed, the development will require a town building permit which has not yet been issued, town staff told the DCI on Friday. Building permits are issued by the town's building inspector normally without review by the planning commission or town board.

There is no subdivision of land taking place that would require planning commission and town board review. The five units on one parcel are allowed under town code, staff explained.

A one-inch-diameter water tap has been purchased for $65,000 and it may serve from two to six residences, according to the town's water rate schedule. About two years ago, the town dropped its requirement that a building permit and/or septic permit be issued before a water tap to a property is sold.

A septic system has been installed. County health department officials issued the septic permit citing the town's water tap as evidence of "town approval" of the development.

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