Milner tiny home community a step away from reality as final approval vote slated for end of month
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — In a unanimous vote, the Routt County Planning Commission during its September meeting gave its final approval to what would be the first tiny home development in an unincorporated part of the county.
Under the plan, six homes, ranging from 200 to 260 square feet, would be built in unincorporated Milner, just off U.S. Highway 40, about 10 miles west of Steamboat Springs.
Those behind the development see it as a way to provide more affordable housing in the area and set a precedent for similar tiny home communities. Opponents, many of them nearby Milner residents, worry the project would negatively change the town and create unsuitable living conditions for the tiny home residents, as well as for neighbors.
The Routt County Board of Commissioners will have the final say on the project and are scheduled to vote to approve or deny the plan during its Sept. 24 meeting.
Michael Buccino, a Steamboat resident and owner of Micro Living LLC, has been spearheading the tiny home project. He chose Milner as the ideal site because of its proximity to utility services, such as a nearby sewer treatment plant and a place to drill a shared water well.
As a member of the city’s Planning Commission, it has been a priority of Buccino’s to expand the types of housing in the area and address the lack of affordable options.
“I am trying to create a product that is not in the marketplace at all,” he said.
Unlike most tiny homes, which are built off-site and driven on trailers to their destined lots, Buccino plans to lay foundations and construct each residence from the ground up.
As planned, each unit would cost about $160,000, according to Buccino. By comparison, the average residential home price in Routt County was $686,781 at the end of 2018, according to a report from the Land Title Guarantee Company.
Renderings show the six homes would surround a rectangular, 2,900-square-foot common space. Each residence would have about 440 square feet of liveable space, including a second-story loft. Buccino said the size of each home is about as large as a one-bedroom apartment.
The units also would have their own bathroom, kitchen and underground crawl space for storage.
One amenity Buccino has not guaranteed, and which some planning commissioners saw as an issue, is space for a washer and dryer.
During the Planning Commission’s meeting, Buccino said one solution could be putting a community washer and dryer in a shared gazebo on the property. Such a structure is already in the plan, which would house a central water heating and water delivery system.
Concerns about water have cropped up numerous times during the course of approving the project. The lot on which the six homes would sit could otherwise fit two family-sized houses, according to a report from Civil Design Consultants, an engineering firm that analyzed the potential water demands. While some feared the six units would exacerbate the area’s water supplies, the firm found the demands would be no greater than from two family-sized houses.
During the public comment portion of the Planning Commission’s meeting, four Milner residences spoke out against the project, most of them concerned it would set a precedent for more tiny home developments, or similar high-density housing, in their rural community.
“We find it very hard to understand why putting six homes in one lot is a good idea,” said Sheila Weekly, who lives near the proposed development.
She also argued the developers have been allowed to deviate from certain county standards, such as the availability of parking spaces. The standard number is two parking spaces per unit, but the proposed development only provides eight spaces.
Weekly and others therefore suggested decreasing the number of tiny homes to four or five.
Buccino countered by arguing most people who would buy such a small unit live alone and, therefore, would not need two parking spaces.
“If you’ve ever been camping in a trailer with someone for a long period of time, you don’t want to stay there longer than three to four weeks,” he said. “I don’t feel it will be two people per unit, and I guarantee it won’t be three.”
When it came time to vote on the project, some planning commissioners voiced skepticism about allowing such an unprecedented housing development.
Peter Flint, who represents the town of Yampa, called it an “experiment at the expense of the neighbors.”
As Chariman Steve Woarnke argued, and as the other commissioners eventually agreed, “We need to move forward as a county in terms of addressing our housing issues — this plan is a valiant and good effort toward doing so.”
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