City needs to create opportunities rather than more rules
The city of Medford is on the path to create solutions in search of problems.
At Monday’s planning commission meeting, members discussed the potential need for additional zoning to regulate the construction of “tiny homes” in the city.
As people who binge watch HGTV are aware, tiny homes are a description for a minimalist fad in design and construction of homes to occupy a small footprint. While in modern home building, homes under 1,000 square feet may be considered small homes, in general, the classifi cation of tiny homes are given to homes measuring under 400 square feet — about the size of a two-car garage. The city already has restrictions on structures built on a chassis frame such fifth-wheel campers, RVs or “park model” mobile homes governing where and how they may be used in the community. City planner Bob Christensen correctly noted that the city’s zoning codes do not have any restrictions requiring a minimum size for a permanent residential dwelling.
Into this lawless wasteland, the fear is that Medford’s lack of regulations would open the door for a free for all where people would purchase building lots and then spend tens of thousands of dollars building meticulously designed homes to move into. The concern is that with no barrier to their construction these tiny homes could infiltrate established residential areas and cause unrest because they would be different than their neighboring dwellings. Such architectural miscegenation is an affront to the particular model of urban planning that favors cookie-cutter neighborhoods. Under this model, the obvious solution is to enact regulations and establish special zoning districts to establish tiny home ghettos. Then people who choose minimalist living quarters can be with their own kind rather than expose the impressionable youth of Medford to something that may be different than what their parents grew up with. God forbid the American dream of home ownership not be the same white picket fence for all people.
At this point it is worthwhile to pause and note that Medford, like many communities, has minimum lot sizes both for established lots and for new construction. For new construction a lot must have at least 70 feet of road frontage and measure no less than 10,000 square feet. Building on existing lots is more flexible with a number of older city lots in the 7,500 square foot range. City codes tend to focus more on how close to the lot lines structures may be built to ensure access for emergency vehicles, limit potential spread of fire and to reduce conflicts between neighbors. The city also requires all new homes, regardless of size, to meet uniform dwelling code standards. There are also a whole host of state building codes that ensure a structure must meet health and safety standards before an occupancy permit may be granted.
Add to this that Medford, like many other rural communities, has a desperate need for growth in both available housing and population.
All of this begs the question of why should the city care how small a house someone builds on their property. If a neighbor wants to control what happens on the vacant lot next door, the solution is for that neighbor to purchase the lot themselves.
Medford does not need regulations on where these minuscule mansions may be built. Rather than raising barriers to people coming to and investing in the community, city hall employees should instead be focused on coming up with ways to make the city more welcoming and helping the community grow.
Creating new regulations for tiny homes is a colossal waste of time and effort.