The Tongass Tiny Home was constructed in 2018. Now, the Sitka assembly is considering updating city code to include rules and regulations for tiny houses. (KCAW photo/Robert Woolsey)

The Sitka Assembly wants to make room for tiny houses in city code, but the process to create regulations around them is moving at a snail shell’s pace. At a meeting on Tuesday (2-11-20) the group passed an amended version of new rules and regulations for tiny houses, but now the code has to come back to the assembly two more times.

After delaying a vote at its last meeting, the assembly was prepared to approve a new set of rules and regulations for tiny houses in Sitka. But more time had bred new concerns. During public comment, resident Rachel Roy mentioned a different part of the code that gave her pause- a section in the document that would prevent tiny home owners from building using certain materials, like vinyl siding.

“As a home owner, when I was shopping for homes, I was really thankful to find a home that had vinyl siding, whereas this ordinance is saying you can’t have vinyl or plastic siding,” she said. “I just wanted you to consider that and I’m not sure that’s a limitation you want to put because those materials will last.”  

The same section would also prohibit tiny houses from being built with flat roofs and requires shingles or metal roofing, no rolled roofing.

 Right now, there are no guidelines for tiny houses in Sitka’s code –the same is true for most US cities- so the planning department has based Sitka’s new rules and regulations on international building code. 

Special project manager Scott Brylinsky explained the rationale for those restrictions. 

“Vinyl siding seems to be less dimensionally stable, it degrades in UV more rapidly than some other materials, especially the more colorful vinyl sidings that might look great when they go on but just degrade in UV,” he said. “And it holds mildew like nobody’s business.” 

Member Steven Eisenbeisz thought the section was too limiting. 

“I think it’s a little bit of government telling us what’s best to do, when there is a code in place already,” he said. “If someone chooses to make a flat roof, in my estimation that is a mistake as well, but I think people should be given the opportunity to make that roof.” 

Eisenbeisz made a friendly amendment to remove that section. That passed 5-2 with assembly member Kevin Mosher and Mayor Gary Paxton opposed.

But when it came to voting on the final motion, some assembly members were ready to go but others were hesitant. Member Valorie Nelson said she didn’t want to rush it and suggested a work session between the assembly and planning and zoning.  

“I believe that if we want to do it right we need to spend some time on it instead of trying to rewrite the ordinance as we’re sitting here at the table, meeting after meeting after meeting,” she said.  

But member Mosher wanted to keep the ball rolling. 

“While I respect that opinion, if we keep going down this road, every time somebody emails us we’re going to be doing this at the table,” he said. “I think it’s sufficient as written to be passed, we can make little tweaks later, but I think it’s good to go.” 

The full tiny house code unanimously passed. But because of the changes, It will come back for another first reading at the next regular assembly meeting. 

Read more coverage of the Tuesday (2-11-2020) assembly meeting here

Watch the full assembly meeting here