A big step for tiny homes: Routt County Planning Commission approves Milner project
February 22, 2019
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Members of the Routt County Planning Commission recommended approval of plans for six tiny homes to be built in unincorporated Milner, just off of U.S. Highway 40, about 10 miles west of Steamboat Springs.
This is the latest step in an almost year-long effort to ensure the homes, all of which measure 400 square feet or less, adhere to county building regulations.
Tiny home advocate Michael Buccino, owner of Micro Living LLC, is spearheading the project with the hope of providing more affordable housing in the area.
Buccino, who sits on the board for the American Tiny House Association, plans to offer two different models of tiny homes on the Milner property — one measuring 400 square feet and the other 290 square feet — with a price range of $150,000 to $170,000.
By comparison, the average residential price in Routt County was $686,781 at the end of 2018, according to a report from the Land Title Guarantee Company.
Buccino plans to build the homes on a 12,500-square-foot — .287-acre — lot on Main Street in Milner. Not much exists on the lot except a dilapidated, unusable structure, according to a description from the Planning Commission.
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He chose that location because of its proximity to utility services, such as a nearby sewer treatment plant and a site to drill a shared water well.
Buccino said a tiny home constitutes a structure that measures 400 square feet or less. A typical single-family home measured 2,641 square feet in 2018, according to a report from the National Association of Homebuilders.
In the past, people who have built tiny homes operated in a regulatory grey area. Building codes did not recognize such small structures, with narrower staircases and shorter ceilings, as legitimate houses. Buccino said that made it difficult for people to get home insurance or a loan to build a tiny home.
But, in 2018, the International Residential Code adopted special regulations for structures under 400 square feet. Buccino said that change made tiny homes more legitimate under building standards.
After that change, he submitted conceptual plans for his tiny home complex in March 2018 to the Routt County Planning Department for review.
At the time, Routt County Planning Director Chad Phillips voiced optimism about the project. Buccino's plans call for placing the tiny homes on concrete foundations, which Phillips said is the key that would allow them to be accepted under county regulations.
Buccino, who has been researching and designing tiny homes since 2016, said that such a foundation is essential to make them permanent dwellings. Other versions of tiny homes place the structures on wheels, which he explained do not fall under the jurisdiction of local building departments.
"They're just glamorized campers," Buccino said.
Building a tiny home on a solid foundation allows people to buy the property as they would a regular house, rather than purchasing the structure itself and not the land that it sits on.
"If you're going to create affordable housing for people, you need to make something that is permanent,” Buccino said.
His conceptual plans and sketches include a basement under each home, accessible through a trap door in the floor, as well as a kitchen and bathroom.
Members of the Planning Commission did raise some concerns about the plans, particularly about parking at the complex.
Typical parking standards require two spaces per unit. Buccino's plans only allot eight spaces to be shared among the six homes, which slightly undercuts those requirements.
Buccino said he will try to add two additional parking spaces to his plans to satisfy those standards.
Now that the Planning Commission has approved the conceptual plan and sketches of the subdivision, Buccino will present his idea to the Routt County Board of Commissioners on March 12.
Kristy Winser, assistant planning director for the county, said the commissioners will have the final say in approving or denying the project.
Commissioners also could request changes to the plans depending on the concerns county officials and community members raised during the planning meeting. Buccino would have to satisfy those conditions for approval before the project could move forward.
He hopes to finalize the plans with the Planning Commission and county commissioners by the end of March, so he can begin construction in mid-May.