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Help Tiny House Zoning Variance Stand in York County

“York County Board of Supervisors has appealed a zoning board decision so that they may force a couple to remove their 415-square-foot home from a mobile home community.

Tom and Karen Rogers, who have lived in Bruton Park for several years in a different structure, said they had already purchased their custom-built home from LiL’ Lodges in Florida before they were told the home wouldn’t be permitted in the county. They bought the home with money they got after their fifth-wheel recreational vehicle, which was parked in the same community, was damaged by a tree, Karen Rogers said.

Tom and Karen Rogers, who have lived in Bruton Park for several years in a different structure, said they had already purchased their new 420-square-foot home from LiL’ Lodges in Florida before they were told the home wouldn’t be permitted in York County.”

Source: Daily Press

Images © Joe Fudge/Daily Press



“They moved in and then received a notice to comply that essentially would have required them to vacate the property. They filed an appeal with the Zoning Board of Appeals and won. Now the Board of Supervisors has asked a circuit court judge to overturn that decision.

“You know what the county is worried about? That they are going to get people having affordable housing,” Karen Rogers said.

York County’s median home value was $316,800 from 2009 to 2013, according to the U.S. Census.

Karen Rogers said her $60,000-$65,000 home — with a living room, kitchen, washer, dryer, master bedroom, bathroom and a half, loft and front porch — is more economical than a typical mobile home and they can’t afford a single-family home. The couple are part of a wider movement across the country in which tiny homes — generally less than 500 square feet — are being built for people who want more affordable housing.”

Read the full story: http://www.dailypress.com/news/york-county/dp-nws-york-tiny-homes-20150108-story.html

Help Karen and Tom Rogers by signing this petition online: https://www.change.org/p/york-county-virginia-board-of-supervisors-let-the-board-of-zoning-appeals-variance-for-tom-karen-rogers-tiny-house-stand

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Alex is a contributor and editor for TinyHouseTalk.com and the always free Tiny House Newsletter. He has a passion for exploring and sharing tiny homes (from yurts and RVs to tiny cabins and cottages) and inspiring simple living stories. We invite you to send in your story and tiny home photos too so we can re-share and inspire others towards a simple life too. Thank you!
{ 29 comments… add one }
  • Billy
    January 9, 2015, 3:32 pm

    That’s right, if people have access to affordable housing then the banks can’t keep everyone by the throat with overblown property values. This kind of crap makes me furious.

  • Andrea Hardy
    January 11, 2015, 8:51 pm

    done. the house is adorable and well thought out–what’s so wrong with actually living within one’s means?

  • ALW
    January 12, 2015, 1:13 pm

    We wouldn’t want idea’s of freedom and smart living to spread!!! Can’t have that when there’s money to be made of the backs of those in needless financial bondage… Next thing you know they’ll start growing their own healthy food and collecting their own water and electricity!

  • Scooter
    January 12, 2015, 1:35 pm

    Hi Cheryl DB,

    Renters pay rent and Landlords pay property taxes. In Michigan a landlords’ millage rates are higher than the millage rate for homes that are occupied by the owner. The schools, etc., get more revenue from non-homesteaded (rented) houses than from homestead houses. I believe landlords charge rent to cover all their investment expenses–including property taxes. Renters indirectly pay property taxes through their landlord. Renters SHOULD rightly get the local services available to anyone owning property in the same location.

    The exception to “ad valorem” property taxes in Michigan is to have a lot in an established trailer park where each dwelling pays $3 per month ($36 per year) payment in lieu of taxes. The parks charge much more than this each month in lot rent partly to pay the taxes on any “common areas” in the park that ARE assessed at 50% of market value. Sounds like the subject home would qualify to be in many Michigan manufactured home parks.

    York County, Virginia is beautiful, popular, upscale and the property values reflect that desirability. (I was there the last time in late September 2015 when we committed cremains of one of my friends to the York River at high tide.) I wonder if the other dwellings in Burton Park are contributing a large part of the high median York County values? Somehow what was shown and said indicates Burton Park is a modestly valued kind of community, in my opinion. What were the rules in Burton Park all along? Did the 5th wheel abode require a special permit? As an assessor I know there are a lot of questions people don’t ask about the rules in established communities before they decide what they are going to do with their own property. I understand this. The rules should be made, and changed, FOR the people and their desires, not for the rigid stance of “But this is how we’ve always done it.” I wish them luck and will try to figure out how to sign the petition, too.

    I agree, property taxes ARE in New Hampshire. When I was stationed in New Hampshire with the Air Force 30 years ago, there was no state income tax or sales tax, is that still true? Many, many service members at that time were buying property and declaring New Hampshire as their legal residence so, they would not pay state income taxes on any future income– military pensions and other income.

    I am interested in a small house somewhere and I hope to enjoy property taxes that are smaller than what I am currently paying. I agree; residents, citizens and taxpayers should be catered to by the local planning and zoning boards. Good luck to us all! And God bless our tiny homes, every one!

    • Billy
      January 12, 2015, 9:08 pm

      No Scooter, property values do not truly reflect “desirability”. There was a time when people saved their money for a while and bought a home or property outright, no loans, payments and mortgages, they payed for it and it was theirs. Property values now days reflect greed. They don’t want you to be able to buy it, they want you to be a continuous cash cow for thirty years. Then those same people set up hoops and loops to jump through so they can’t live in smaller homes like what these folks have. These problems are all connected and all part of the same racket. If things were set up fairly these people would simply be able to buy their property and be left alone, regardless of where they live.

      • Scooter
        January 12, 2015, 11:51 pm

        Hi Billy, I agree there is a certain attitude in our modern real estate environment that needs to be countered by the tiny house movement. However, desirability is a lot of what determines value–and always has. There are several principles of value. Supply and demand is one of them I see you ignoring in your analysis. I believe the tiny house advocates are asserting that the utility of a small house may actually satisfy the principle of substitution–the most fundamental principle of value in property valuation. A house is a house is a house. However, identical houses in Detroit and York County, Virginia will command different sales prices. And you may have heard the following question and answer, “What are the three things that determine value? Location, location, location.” One point I would like to know more about is are there not affordable homes ANYWHERE in York County? Sounds like Karen has found such a location and is now doing what she must to try to connect the dots for the Codes Enforcers. The ZBA agreed with her argument and I want to see that rational decision stand for this situation.

    • Cheryl
      January 12, 2015, 11:10 pm

      Hi Scooter, here in NH. The tax rate is per thousand of home/land values which vary from town to town. Rates vary across residential/ building value and the land value the building sits on .Different rates apply for recreational land,farm land and business.
      A neighbor down the street rents a apt in their home and pays the same rate as we do per thousand.
      The need for affordable housing is great here. Tiny houses and the one mentioned here could really help us. Of course more insulation would be needed.
      I guess my first statement may have seemed like I had blinders on, but I rented for many many years and know how landlords work. I meant no nastiness by my comment, just didn’t add enought to it I guess. I was trying to be supporting in the fact of letting people own and survive.
      That went over like a fart in church.

      • Scooter
        January 13, 2015, 11:30 am

        Hi Cheryl,
        It certainly is frustrating when affordable housing is so much in demand and the supply is so small. Michigan tax rates are per $1,000 of value, too, and that is why I referred to them as millage rates. I really enjoyed my apartment in Dover, NH back in the 1981 and 1982 in a renovated mill administration building on Broad Street. I bet I couldn’t afford the rent in 2015!! On the other hand, since I haven’t checked, it would be interesting to know how that renovation from 30+ years ago has held up and if anyone can be found to rent it with the STEEP stairs and no more young Air Force officers on hand since the base closed a couple of decades ago. That was the only place I ever lived with a non-related roommate. The apartment was great. The roommate not so much! Remember to enjoy your freedom from state income taxes and sales taxes in New Hampshire. In Michigan there are all three kinds of tax!!

  • Karen R
    January 12, 2015, 2:10 pm

    Thank you for all the nice comments and support! In 2007, prior to placing our custom fifth wheel in Bruton Park, I called the codes department and was told a private park owner could place anything they wanted in their mobile home park. So we didn’t think twice about putting something nicer – built better than HUD standards! – on the same lot.

    If you were to hear the Board of Zoning Appeals meeting, you would know that the codes department is very angry that we lived here for seven years and they didn’t notice (although the electric hookup was approved). There is definitely an air of vindictiveness in addition to the continuing effort to avoid workforce housing.

    It is past time for us to take a stand for one another. Living small is responsible!

    • Andrea Hardy
      January 13, 2015, 5:36 pm

      agreed 100% karen–and your home is beautiful!

  • Karen R
    January 12, 2015, 2:14 pm

    Scooter, please let me know of nice mobile home parks in south Michigan. Our elder daughter just moved to Grosse Pointe.


    • Scooter
      January 13, 2015, 11:55 am

      Hi Karen,
      If you search for mobile home parks near Grosse Pointe, Michigan a whole list will turn up and you can call to learn more. The lot rates may be too high or there may not be vacancies or the parks may not even wind up being too nice, but the property taxes for each dwelling in that park is a payment in lieu of taxes of $3 per month. However, that $3 bucks may be hidden in amongst a lot of other monthly fees like park costs, expenses like snow plowing and utilities like water/sewer. Shop thoroughly. Ask lots of questions about your particular situation. Just like with my doctor and being proactive with my health situation, I have to be proactive in owning my property when dealing with realtors, community officials and property tax assessors and ask lots of questions and try not to draw assumptions from the bureaucratic answers based on logic or common sense. If the question wasn’t answered or the information directly offered, ask again using other words.

      Keep in mind that Wayne County, Michigan has extremes in property values such as might exist in York County, Virginia. You have the desirable Grosse Pointe, East Pointe–which used to be East Detroit, and Detroit where houses are being torn down by the 10,000s annually in the same pot.

      I have another Air Force friend who lives in western Michigan and the park there has raised the water/sewer quite a bit. I encouraged her to find out exactly what changed to cause the increase.

      Asking questions was how I found out our city has a minimum house requirement of two perpendicular 20 foot walls–ergo a house 20′ x 20′ (400sq feet) is the smallest that would be allowed. And I would apply for a variance if I were interested in a nice manufactured house that had one dimension smaller than 20′, say a 14′ by 28′ (392 square feet) tiny home. And, depending on where I wanted to put it in the city, the variance might be granted. I know, for sure, I can put such a dwelling in the parks we have, but I want more of a yard than I would find in such a location and I don’t want a monthly lot fee–like one gets with a condo situation, too. And, my local city official was startled to be asked about MINIMUM sizes! I made his day.

  • Tom R
    January 12, 2015, 2:16 pm

    Scooter, please let me know of nice mobile home parks in south Michigan. Our elder daughter just moved to Grosse Pointe. Please use Karen’s email address. Tom Rogers.


    • Scooter
      January 13, 2015, 1:20 pm

      Hi Tom,
      Please use [email protected] to contact me. I don’t know Karen’s e-mail address.

  • Lisa E.
    January 12, 2015, 2:23 pm

    It really burns my toast when certain people use the law to ensure that other people can’t live! Just because this Karen woman wants everyone over a barrel so she can line her pockets is NO REASON any court in the land should listen to her unless that court has been bought and paid for by such things as the Chamber of Commerce! These people need to BACK OFF!!!

  • Marcia
    January 12, 2015, 2:30 pm

    This is ridiculous. The house is adorable and way better looking than the trailer you see in the background. Sheesh.

  • Marsha Cowan
    January 12, 2015, 3:30 pm

    What a lovely home! Who would not want it in their park? It can only Add value to the park, and if more homes like it moved in, the value of the park would skyrocket, so l don’t see the problem. It is a mobile home in a mobile home park. This petition I will sign.

  • Rob Mair
    January 12, 2015, 7:52 pm

    Tom & Karen keep fighting. You have a great tiny house. Can you have any Judge sitting on your case visit it?
    History will show, and I hope for you, that the decisions made by the bigend of town will one day bite them on the bottom. They must understand that affordable housing is a fundamental human right and that no man should have the right to take it away.
    I wish you both all the best.

  • Kaitlin Rogers
    January 12, 2015, 8:10 pm

    Thank you all for your signatures and for spreading the word. My family really appreciates your support! We are over 1300 signatures as of 8pm tonight.

    Thank you again, and we appreciate the kind, positive words!

  • Scooter
    January 12, 2015, 11:26 pm

    Hi Karen,
    I live in mid-Michigan but might be able to share some ideas for your daughter if you contact me directly at [email protected].

  • Brian
    January 13, 2015, 8:22 am

    Signed. I hope all works out for them.

  • Tony
    January 13, 2015, 1:39 pm

    I understand the need for change in the system, and working for an engineering firm I understand parts of Florida are extremely difficult to build and have strict planning regulations. I think I would have done my homework better on such an important thing such as my home. If they are just worried about the building codes concerning hurricanes, I’d argue that I’ve never seen a mobile home survive a storm like that – so what does it matter! lol

  • Shannon
    January 13, 2015, 11:28 pm

    I signed, I hope you get to stay.

  • mahzie
    January 14, 2015, 12:20 pm

    I really find some of the ads on your site offensive. Don’t you have control of what is shown? I would visit more often.

  • Cheryl Speck
    January 15, 2015, 8:12 am

    What is interesting in the photo is how nice the house looks compared to the mobile homes shown in the background.

  • Kaylah Marie
    January 20, 2015, 11:43 am

    Love Your Features! Can’t Wait To Read More! Thanks!!

  • Alycia
    February 15, 2015, 10:51 am

    What is the differentiating specifications on a tinyhouse verses a motor home, rv? What makes one acceptable for permanent housing over another?

  • Hippocrates
    November 9, 2015, 4:32 pm

    The answer is the government is your friend, if they file a HUD complaint for failure to reasonably accommodate someone with a disability. Given their age, I am sure they probably already have a reasonable need for caretaker help with taking out the trash, tending to daily activities. No joke. While the owners may puff their chest and say “we don’t need no help,” they are actually shooting themselves in the foot, because I have read the cases concerned ADA. They have a very strong case, and the US government would be the one filing the suit against the local council, and winning, for failure to reasonably accommodate their disability. I suggest googling what I am typing here to read the cases yourself before not taking this serious. This is a question of “standing” in the courts. A disabled person has heaps of standing, greater than that of the city/State that wants to deny the permit. Other cities have tried the same tactic, and lost, when the concerned party filed a complaint on the basis of “reasonable accommodation.” Google is your friend, and so is HUD in these case. Reading those cases is very empowering, and I wish I’d known about them sooner. The ADA has real teeth. I suggest these people drop their case and file a new one under the ADA, after requesting a new permit, assuming Mr or Mrs has a need for “help” or Mr is the “caretaker” for Mrs bad hip, or vice versa. Same law applies.

  • Betty
    September 14, 2017, 6:17 pm

    What a lovely home. They should look into Hippocrates suggestions.

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