LISTENING – U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski listens in the audience as she's introduced during Wednesday's Sitka Chamber of Commerce meeting at Harrigan Centennial Hall. Murkowski and members of her staff spent the day in Sitka visiting with constituents. (Sentinel Photo by James Poulson)

Rules Proposed for Tiny Homes in Sitka

Sentinel Staff Writer
    The Sitka Planning Commission got its first look Wednesday at ways city code could be changed to make room for tiny houses – and specifically tiny homes on chassis (frameworks) that allow them to be moved.
    No one came from the public specifically to discuss the three agenda items related to tiny homes, and panel members said they would hold off on most decisions until the full commission is present.   
    “We’re looking to hear from tiny homes advocates in the community,” Scott Brylinsky, special projects manager, told the Sentinel today. He and Planning Director Amy Ainslie said they plan to reach out to those involved in advocating for tiny homes in the past before the next meeting.
    In other business, the commission without much discussion:
    – approved a final plat for a minor subdivision, creating two lots from one at the Gary Paxton Industrial Park. The city asked for the subdivision to facilitate the transfer of the utility dock and land to Lee Hanson of Hanson Maritime. The company hopes to use the dock and land to expand its maritime service business.
    – approved a preliminary plat for a hybrid minor subdivision to result in five lots at 2370 HPR, requested by Michael Tisher. The five lots measure 44,353 square feet, 39,794 square feet, 36,793 square feet, 25,443 square feet and 16,835 square feet, and meet all requirements for access and utility easements. The commission reviewed the layout of the lots and easements before granting approval of the plat. It will come back for final plat approval at the next meeting, Jan. 15.
    – approved a conditional use permit for a short-term rental at 114 Erler Street Apt. A, filed by Howard Merkel. He said the unit has been a long-term rental for three years, and he would like the option of a short-term rental. Merkel lives in the other unit in the house, but also plans to hire a professional manager. There are a number of other short-term rentals in the neighborhood, which is close to downtown. Panel member Darrell Windsor commented that it looks like a good place for a short-term rental.

Joe Weyhmiller stands on the deck of a Shennett Street tiny home today. The Sitka Planning Commission discussed tiny home issues at their Wednesday night meeting. (Sentinel Photo)

Tiny Homes
    The Assembly held a visioning session last year and proposed Action Plans and Goals for the year, including “To pursue options regarding ‘tiny homes’ and/or smaller dwellings” for the purposes of economic development and to introduce more affordable housing options in Sitka.
    The Action Plan included direction to the Planning Commission to review zoning codes “with consideration for which codes could/would be changed to enable tiny homes/small dwellings to be a potential affordable housing option.”
    Brylinsky was hired as a special projects manager to work on the Action Plan for tiny homes, and to guide the master plan process for No Name Mountain (kickoff for the master plan is Jan. 22).
    Acting Chairman Darrell Windsor, and fellow members Stacy Mudry and Victor Weaver gave feedback to Brylinsky and Ainslie. Building Official Pat Swedeen was on hand to answer questions. A member of the public attending on other business stayed for the tiny homes discussion, and Assembly member Richard Wein also contributed to the discussion.
    On the proposed text changes, the vote was 3-0 to direct Brylinsky to continue developing proposals on changing sections of the general code to define tiny houses and tiny houses on chassis, and allow them in mobile home and manufactured home parks.
    The commission gave mixed reviews to the idea of allowing tiny houses on chassis as accessory dwelling units. ADUs are allowed in some zones with a number of conditions, prohibited in some, and allowed in some cases with conditional use permits.
    The last item was a discussion of allowing three tiny houses on chassis in a single lot.
    But Windsor, who acted as chairman in Chris Spivey’s absence, said he would like the full commission present before making recommendations on sweeping changes related to tiny homes.
    Brylinsky reviewed sections of the building code and proposed changes that would be needed, as well as a section of the code related to mobile and manufactured homes that would need to be changed to allow for tiny homes on permanent or semi-permanent foundations within mobile home or manufactured home parks.
    The proposed changes to city code are available online in the planning commission packet, but in general tiny homes will have to be hooked up to city utilities, and must meet building, fire, size and safety standards.


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