In a public hearing that took the full 30 minutes allotted for debate and discussion, the Seymour Board of Aldermen voted 4-0 against approving a variance for new Seymour residents Elijah Thomas and his wife, Talia, to place a “tiny home” on a lot they recently purchased on West Puryear Street.
Present at last Thursday’s hearing were about 10 guests, including Thomas, as the aldermen discussed waiving the city’s requirement that single-family dwellings be at least 750 square feet.
Thomas’ tiny home is 192 square feet.
It measures 8 feet by 24 feet.
However, there was little doubt the home is built well after he described its construction to the aldermen, complete with photographs of its interior and exterior.
“I’d estimate between $22,000 and $25,000,” Thomas told the aldermen. “Everything done on it matches what I would do if building a regular home. The only difference is that it’s smaller.”
“Much smaller,” South Ward Alderman Dan Wehmer said. “And Elijah, that’s our primary issue. I think that I can speak for all of us in saying we’d love for you and your new wife to be city residents on West Puryear Street. But the big issue here is square footage. You’re not off by just a little bit.”
“That’s what sticks to me, as well,” North Ward Alderman Darrel “Bub” Wallace added. “If you were, say, 50 or even 100 square feet short, then I would probably vote for (the variance).
“But our requirement is 750 (square feet), and you’re not even at 200. If we say yes, what’s next? We’ll probably have someone in here asking to set up a tiny home that’s 150 or 125 square feet.”
“And they likely won’t build it to the quality that you’ve done, Elijah,” Wehmer chimed in. “There’s no doubt you’ve built a nice home, a good home. It meets all that we require. The roof. The wiring. You’re setting a foundation. But it’s only 192 square feet. That’s a big issue.”
When voicing their respective no votes on the variance, North Ward Alderman Jim Ashley and South Ward Alderman Nadine Crisp each cited the same concerns as Wallace and Wehmer.
“We’ve told people in the past no, and they came to us with homes that were much larger — hundreds of square feet larger,” Ashley said. “This isn’t the first time we’ve had discussions about tiny homes. And I just can’t vote yes for this when I’ve voted no on the others.”
Crisp commended Thomas for being both thorough and respectful.
“I want to vote yes,” she said with a smile. “You’re a very nice and polite young man. So is your wife. When we ask you questions, you give us straight answers, and I like that a lot. But I’m also concerned that if we say yes to this, we really are opening up a can of worms.”
At the meeting, it was learned that while one neighbor directly across the street had no problem with the city giving a variance for the tiny home, five other neighbors, as well as Alicia Hagen, chairman of the Seymour Planning & Zoning Commission, were against it.
Despite being told no on the variance, Thomas thanked each member of the board for allowing the public hearing and listening to his proposal.
“We’re an open-minded group, and I like to think we’re fair,” Wehmer said. “You’ve got a copy of our housing rules, which we’ve really tried to make much more public friendly over the past few years.
“Perhaps you can make this concept work under those rules. If you pour a 15 (feet) by 50 (feet) foundation, then you’ve got 750 square feet. Perhaps you can build on to the home you’ve already built.”
“The wheels have to come off the home, though,” Wallace added.
The aldermen advised Thomas to get in contact this week with Mitchell Plummer, the city’s building inspector, to see what his options are at the lot on West Puryear Street.