Tiny House Living Situation Challenges City Council
Mike and Tami Kibble were surprised when they received a code violation letter from Philomath City Planner Jim Minard.
Despite what they believed had been a positive visit with the city manager the previous week, the longtime Philomath residents were being ordered to remove a “recreational vehicle” from their property within 45 days or be subject “to fines up to $500 per day for each day the violation is allowed to continue.”
Photos: BRAD FUQUA, PHILOMATH EXPRESS
This past March, the Philomath City Council unanimously approved an ordinance amendment to clarify code language on the definition of a recreational vehicle. Minard’s letter referenced the ordinance that prohibits such structures to be used as a domicile in residential zones.
Municipal code 9.15.025 defines RVs as a “vehicle that is self-propelled or towed by a motor vehicle and designed for camping, nonpermanent or recreational habitation” and that “no person shall live, cook, sleep or reside in a recreational vehicle or trailer located on a lot or on a public street for more than five consecutive days nor more than 10 days total in a 30-day period.”
In this case, the RV currently set up at 436 S. 17th St., is more accurately described as a “tiny house” that serves as the living quarters for Kyle and Brittney McGann and their young daughter. McGann, a U.S. Air Force veteran who served three tours in Iraq and one in Afghanistan, is now a full-time student at Oregon State University.
The Kibbles live directly next door, purchasing the neighboring property in 2006 when it became available on the market following the death of its owner. They tore down the house but maintained the property’s utilities, including the installation of a power pole and water spigot.
This issue of the couple’s presence in the tiny house apparently came to the attention of the city through a complaint. Chris Workman, city manager, said he also got a complaint about a tiny house at an Applegate Street address but that owner had it sitting temporarily in his driveway while performing maintenance.
But in the case of the McGann couple, it has set off a situation that some city councilors seem to believe is not a black-and-white issue.
Photos: BRAD FUQUA, PHILOMATH EXPRESS
Tami Kibble wrote in a letter to councilors that she had the intention of moving her parents up to the property at some future date following the purchase. But following the death of her father, her mom hasn’t been ready to leave memories behind and relocate.
Prior to the ordinance amendment, the Kibbles helped a young family by allowing them to live on the property for about a year.
“It was just a way to provide a place for them when they were basically getting their feet on the ground,” she said.
After they moved on, the Kibbles decided they wanted to help someone who had served their country through military service.
“We prayed about it and we wanted to bring in a military family and give back — they do so much for us — and I had the provisions to be able to do that,” Mike Kibble said.
Tami Kibble said they then offered to help the McGann couple “not knowing that we may be doing something wrong … that was never our intention.”
She said they never tried to hide the situation and never received any complaints from neighbors.
“Kyle just got out of the military, still active, and is a full-time student,” she said. “He’s been in Iraq and Afghanistan and he’s been in the service for 10 years and they’re just trying and it’s their way to afford and that’s what we’ve provided.”
The tiny house would serve as their residence while Kyle McGann pursued a degree.
“We had the house built for us, the shell of it, and had an electrician and plumber come in and do everything to code in the house,” Kyle McGann said. “And then I came in and actually did a lot of the work myself, too.”
Kyle McGann is majoring in mechanical engineering.
“The last deployment really took a lot out of us and out of my husband and so we decided not to do the military life anymore, especially with the baby,” Brittney McGann said. “And he’s going back to school and pursuing his dream.”
The letter from Minard caught the couple off guard.
“The city manager came out the week before and looked at everything … and he said everything looked great; he didn’t see anything wrong with it,” Mike Kibble said. “And so, a week later, we got the note and it was like, ‘well, I’m going to do the best I can for these guys because of the situation.’”
Workman said the new ordinance had not entered his mind while on the property visit.
“I’m not a planner by background so I’m not as well-versed in these and so I came back to the office after talking to them and said, ‘yeah, it’s a cute house, looks great and they look like a great couple, great addition to the community,” Workman said. “I came back and talked to Jim and Jim looks at me and says ‘Chris, you’re an idiot.’ We just passed a new ordinance last year specifically talking about trailers and RVs and people not being able to live in them.’”
Workman then recalled the ordinance and they looked through it. He said it was clear about what is acceptable.... turn page...