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Cook County, MN Allows Foundation Tiny Homes

We got a tip last week that Cook County, Minnesota is tiny house friendly, but I wanted to double-check before spreading a rumor.

I contacted Bill Lane, the Planning and Zoning Administrator for Cook County, and he straightened out the details and specifics for those of you interested in going tiny in Minnesota. It’s certainly not a free-for-all, but they are more receptive than many counties!

In short: You’ll need to build on a foundation (or remove the wheels) and comply with zoning and building regulations (and pay taxes!), but it can be done.

Take a look at some pictures of Grand Marais, named one of the coolest US small towns by CNN, and then read what Bill told us below!

Related: Tiny House Lots on a Santa Fe, New Mexico Farm

Cook County, MN Allows Foundation Tiny Homes

Tiny House Friendly Land in Cook County, MN

Photography by Bryan Hansel/MPR

Related: Lomax Tiny House Community in San Pierre, Indiana

Tiny House Talk: Can you have a tiny house in Cook County?

Bill Lane: Yes and no on the topic. Cook County has a couple of thresholds we apply to tiny homes and yes, tiny homes on wheels. First, as inhabitable structures, they warrant both land use and septic permits and as such, must meet all zone district requirements including road, property and resource setbacks.

Second, we would treat wheeled tiny homes as recreational vehicles and require an RV permit unless…the owner agreed to remove the wheels and otherwise make the structure permanent…including a foundation and/or cribbing along with skirting around the bottom of the unit.

Loss of mobility would result in the tiny home being designated as a primary or secondary residence on the property (only two habitable structures are allowed in residential districts). Finally, we would ask for a written statement from the owner verifying the use be permanent throughout their property ownership.

So there you have it! Get in touch with Bill if you have more questions at [email protected].


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Natalie C. McKee

Natalie C. McKee is a contributor for Tiny House Talk and the Tiny House Newsletter. She's a wife, and mama of three little kids. She and her family are homesteaders with sheep, goats, chickens, ducks and quail on their happy little acre.

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{ 12 comments… add one }
    March 21, 2017, 9:29 pm

    Love the water view….!

    • Natalie C. McKee
      March 22, 2017, 8:20 am

      Me too!

  • Kyle
    March 22, 2017, 9:51 am

    Grand Marais is amazing! A real gem in Minnesota. Definitely recommended!

    • Natalie C. McKee
      March 27, 2017, 9:20 am

      Good to know!

  • Don Oberg-Hauser
    March 22, 2017, 1:56 pm

    Grand Marais or surrounding area is where my wife and I hope to retire – perhaps buying some land and building. We’ve been hoping for years that the area would allow tiny houses – even with restrictions. This is great news for many of us who want the best of two worlds: MN life and tiny house living.

    • Natalie C. McKee
      March 27, 2017, 9:17 am

      Yay! I am so glad!

    • Kim
      May 11, 2017, 6:17 pm

      I love tiny houses. I am always sketching out little floor plans for one. My brother and I have had some lots up on Murphy Mountain in Grand Marais, and the thought came to me one day that maybe people looking for land for their tiny houses could build on those lots! So my brother called Zoning there, and they really do seem quite receptive to people wanting a tiny house on their own land there (or even a tiny house on wheels). That was so encouraging.

      • Natalie C. McKee
        May 12, 2017, 9:33 am

        So great to hear, Kim!!

  • Liz
    March 22, 2017, 5:04 pm

    Good news – adds to recent news about Pendleton, Oregon now accepting tiny houses. I would absolutely be willing to comply with all building and code requirements and paying taxes would be expected. I am a bit concerned though about the vagueness of the signed statement requirement. It is essentially a “restrictive covenant” that is not tied to land title but is legally binding on the owner. Creative. I would like to know more about legal specifics and enforcement before signing away property rights in perpetuity. When ready to put down permanent roots, this would be an excellent choice! Thanks for the info.

    • Silver Gypsy
      March 23, 2017, 1:59 pm

      #Liz: What are you talking about? Oregon is opening up to THOWs, but with some strange agreement about the land in perpetuity? Can you explain this or give a link to an explanation? Thanx!

      • Liz
        March 23, 2017, 10:46 pm

        Sure, Silver Gypsy, happy to. Sorry – I blended two ideas: 1) good news about Pendleton, Oregon opening THOW friendly land ownership. That was meant to add to the MN conversation. 2) “in perpetuity” = indefinitely into the future, and related to the MN required signed statement. By law, their statement becomes a binding promise (a contract) that continues into indefinitely into the future because there is no end/release date for the owner (in perpetuity). The point I am trying to make is that I would want to know more about county-level penalties, fines, and/or enforcement provisions if they deem an owner in noncompliance of the statement. Not a deal breaker, just room to ask several questions. I hope this helps.

        • Silver Gypsy
          March 24, 2017, 4:21 am

          #Liz: Okay, I get this. But what is MN and OR trying to achieve with this contract? That the state still owns the land even if we buy it? What are some of the stipulations that they would declare us as being “non-compliant”? I don’t get why these states are doing this; what’s their point; what are they up to? Do you know?

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