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story.lead_photo.caption NWA Democrat-Gazette/BEN GOFF • @NWABENGOFF LJ Martin's tiny home has a vaulted ceiling and large windows in the living room in the Eagle Homes on Olive neighborhood in Rogers. "To live tiny is to live a minimalist lifestyle," Martin said.

ROGERS -- Betty Kelso wants her house to feel open and bright.

So she asked for white cabinets and lots of windows when it was manufactured. Four chairs sit on her front porch along with a mat reading "welcome peeps."

Definition

A carbon footprint is the amount of greenhouse gases and specifically carbon dioxide emitted by something, such as a person’s activities or a product’s manufacture and transport, during a given time period.

Source: Merriam-Webster

Kelso, 78, lives in a 399-square-foot "tiny home" off West Olive Street. She has more than 20 neighbors who do the same in the Eagle Homes on Olive neighborhood.

The city is writing rules to allow more tiny homes in Rogers.

Kelso's neighborhood near downtown was built in 2016 on land zoned for mobile homes. Developers David and Chris Gallo recently tried to do a similar project with 39 homes on about 4 acres on North 13th Street about 2 miles west of the West Olive homes.

They found zoning regulations don't allow the homes there.

The city prohibits rezoning land for mobile homes, and the tiny homes fall under its definition of "mobile homes" because they're manufactured and then moved onto land instead of built from the ground.

David Gallo said it's expensive to move a tiny home once it's placed, and he's had one resident do so in three years.

John McCurdy, community development director, said at the Planning Commission meeting in July the city doesn't object to tiny homes.

"This is not your mom's mobile home park," McCurdy said. "This is a new type of structure that's a manufactured home. It's got a pitched roof. It's got residential siding on it, and we should consider whether our prohibition against mobile homes is valid in today's market."

Planning staff presented a "cluster housing" proposal to a Planning Commission committee last week allowing tiny homes and cottage court housing in some residential areas.

Cottage court and cluster housing is grouping three or more detached units on one lot typically closer together than usual with the intent of retaining an open space area, according to the proposal. Houses usually share a yard or common outdoor space in cottage court-style housing, McCurdy said.

"This is really in response to the recent conversations we've been having about how to address tiny homes and where they should exist in our code as a permitted housing type," said Ethan Hunter, city planner.

The code would mandate manufactured homes have a porch or awning; have pitched roofs and roofing material of a type customarily used on site-constructed houses; have wheels, axles and hitch mechanisms removed; be placed on a concrete slab or brick skirting; and be compatible and similar in appearance with surrounding site-constructed buildings.

With the committee's blessing, the staff's next steps are to have the city's Legal Department and the City Council's Community Environment and Welfare Committee review the new zoning, McCurdy said. The City Council has final approval.

Living tiny

The West Olive tiny home park is for people 55 and older. The second park the Gallos hope to develop would allow all ages, David Gallo said.

"I think we'd be absolutely shocked at how many young people would want one of these and at how many people want a crash pad," he said, adding some people would rather spend most of their time outside their homes.

The intent of tiny homes is to offer affordable, quality homes to people who don't want or need a lot of space, he said.

A tiny home can be an option for millennials who would rather spend money on experiences or who would like to reduce their carbon footprints, according to national reports and Gallo. The West Olive development has attracted people whose spouses have died and want to downsize, he said.

The homes generally cost between $45,000 and $80,000, Gallo said.

Tiny homes have also been used as transitional housing for homeless people in some communities across the United States.

LJ Martin, 62, first heard of tiny homes from HGTV's "Tiny House Hunters."

"To live tiny is to live a minimalist lifestyle," Martin said.

Martin went from living in a 1,900-square-foot house in Bella Vista to a one-bedroom, one-bathroom, 399-square-foot house. It cost her $47,000.

To live small is also to live creatively.

The stairway up to a loft in Martin's home doubles as a bookshelf with books stacked on opposite sides of the steps every other step. Martin has two futons for guests in the loft, which overlooks the living room.

Kelso sold her dresser, but her bed is built on top of six drawers. She stores sweaters in decorative hat boxes above her closet. She opted for an open floor plan instead of a loft.

Martin wanted a full kitchen because she likes to cook and mix spices. Her house, as many of the tiny homes do, has a full refrigerator, microwave, stove and oven.

The low cost and minimal upkeep allow her to spend more time and money outside her home, she said. She's also made friends with her neighbors.

Martin said she learned to let go of things she didn't need. She asked herself, "Do I need it? Does it bring me joy? Can I get rid of it?"

Saving space

No tiny home developments exist in Fayetteville, but they are allowed, said Garner Stoll, development services director for the city. Homes must be at least 120 square feet and cannot be on wheels. They also must meet certain design standards, such as pitched roofs, he said.

Ellen Norvell, Bentonville city engineer, said the issue hasn't come up with city staff.

"We may need to figure out new regulations at that point," she said.

Bentonville allows land to be rezoned for mobile homes, and manufactured or tiny homes would likely fall in that category, Norvell said.

The home trend is largely driven by people who want to own homes, but don't want not pay a high price or be responsible for a lot of maintenance, said Mervin Jebaraj, director of the Center for Business and Economic Research at the University of Arkansas.

"When you think about the people moving into this region, they tend to be younger people who may be interested in home ownership," he said.

He added that, although tiny homes are cheaper overall than traditional homes, they tend to be more expensive per square foot.

Average residential home prices in June were about $262,000 in Benton County and $250,000 in Washington County, according to the Northwest Arkansas Board of Realtors.

"The underlying issue is Northwest Arkansas is running out of lots where you can build homes," Jebaraj said.

McCurdy said as the city runs out of land, it needs to encourage high-density housing in and around busy areas.

"In the past, the idea was that, if someone was going to do something like a mobile home park or an apartment complex, you wanted that to be as far away from everything as possible. It's very clear that when you do that, you create problems," he said.

NW News on 08/25/2019

Print Headline: Rogers adapts to 'tiny homes'

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