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Old 08-13-2013, 12:04 PM   #1
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Default Path to Yurtizenship

We were just assuming we'd put our yurt up on the old yurt's site, not worry too much about any official status, and fly under that radar. Then an attorney friend told us he was worrying for us, and wondered if we'd like him to do some brief research into was is legal in our locality and what repercussions might exist if we got caught not abiding by it. We said sure. And another friend, who works in the field of property tax assessment, told us that in our area aerial photos are taken with some regularity, and someone is sent to check out new construction.
When our friend got back to us on his findings, he said that in our area, and our zoning (Rural Estate) there was no clear way to put up a yurt. In fact, any new residential construction had to be a minimum of 3,000 sq. ft. (Our municipality is planning on all the current agricultural land "progressing" toward 20 acre parcels with big houses and a good tax base.) He listed the fines associated with noncompliance, with the note that often the municipality first tries to work with the offender to resolve the problem before it comes to fines.
Some folks we talked to said "Seriously. Nobody will notice, and nobody will care. Just put it up and move in. The absolute worst that will happen is that you'll have to take it down."
Others, though, gave us three good reasons not to proceed that way. The first is that our long-term plans involve creating a sustainable-living model for low impact living and farming. That will rely on good graces with the city planning and zoning folks. The second is that, in the medium term, we hope to incorporate natural building techniques in the renovation of the property's house. If we start out trying to do things under the radar, that could well create trust issues down the road on the house. And, finally, we are community-minded individuals, and (sometimes unfortunately) community includes our city's government.
So this thread is going to track our progress of trying to get permission in some way to put up our Pacific Yurt, which we hope to live in at least until our house is habitable (3+ years). Wish us luck!

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Old 08-13-2013, 12:21 PM   #2
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Default Re: Path to Yurtizenship

The first step we took was to have a conversation with a friend on the zoning appeals board. I told him all about our plan, and his reaction was basically "I don't think anyone in the city has heard anything about Yurts. Here's The Guy to talk to. He's a good guy, but your idea is going to freak him out. You might be able to get somewhere. Good luck."
My wife then called The Guy, who is the head of Planning and Zoning for our municipality. She told him about our hopes and dreams. He said something along the lines of "I don't think you can do that. But I can schedule you a meeting with the guy you'd need to talk to. Bring the kids!"
That will be Thursday morning, and we will not be bringing the oldest, who is a three-year-old, and who has little patience for adult discussions staying home. Maybe the cute 9 month old will help the cause.
We'll also be bringing the basic engineering package and flame certifications that

Pacific Yurts

was able send us, photos of existing yurts, potential floor plans, our rationale for why we think the yurt is an acceptable living situation in this case, a willingness to have a conversation about what we'd rather not do but will if we have to (like septic and all), a level head, and positivity.
If any of you have gone through this process, feel free to give some more advice. At this point we'll be talking with them about possibilities to see if we can proceed to the realm of "going through the right steps to make it happen."
I should have added above, this meeting may well tell us whether we can go ahead and receive shipment on the yurt we purchased, or will have to pay the cancellation penalty and be among the deprived many who live without yurts in this big round world.
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Old 08-13-2013, 03:59 PM   #3
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Default Re: Path to Yurtizenship

I wonder if you might get some leeway if all else fails, you tell them that this is only temporary until you get the house finished?
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Old 08-13-2013, 09:52 PM   #4
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Default Re: Path to Yurtizenship

I would suggest as Jafo has said.

Many areas will let you bring in a temporary structure, such as a house trailer to live in for "X" amount of time while you build or renovate. It can't hurt to try this card if all else is failing.

That has been my experience in the past. I lived in a house trailer on-site for just over a year while I built my own place. The plumbing and electrical for the trailer was temporarily tied into the same facilities that were planned for the house, electricity, well and septic. I don't know if this is your situation or not. This was in the early 1980's and in Montana.

Good luck with your meeting. Any time you meet with official types you surely need some luck.


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Old 08-21-2013, 12:07 PM   #5
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Default Re: Path to Yurtizenship

Well, we met last week with the building codes fellow and the zoning fellow, and it was a very positive experience. The meeting started with them laying out their concerns and the statement that they didn't see any way to make it work, trying to permit something that didn't seem to fit into building codes at all.
We explained who we were, our background and goals, and then I gave them a brief history of yurts and, specifically, yurts in the US. I handed them the engineering specs and flame specs that

Pacific Yurts

has. We had a conversation about how adaptable yurts are, that they can be plumbed and wired, that they can have "real" windows, and that there were municipalities in the US that have permitted them and state and local parks in Ohio that utilize them.
In the end, the zoning fellow still had some concerns he needed to consider and explore, but both reflected that, though they haven't done anything like this before, it looks like a project that we can work together to move forward. How about that?
One of the pieces of information they asked me to send them was regarding other places that have permitted yurts as residences. I'll be cruising the internet in the next few days to gather a list of those that I can find, but I would love it if any of you with leads can point me to any I might miss.
On the whole, I am excited by the fact that the folks at the city are so willing to explore something they have no experience with, and to consider something that they initially thought not possible.
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Old 08-21-2013, 05:20 PM   #6
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You might want to contact Melissa at

Yurts of Hawaii

. She definitely gets her yurts permitted for residency and may know others.
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Old 08-22-2013, 03:03 PM   #7
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Default Re: Path to Yurtizenship

Our tale of woe with the permit police is recorded in whats going on in your
yurtiverse. I'll return here if/when we get any resolution.
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Old 09-05-2013, 01:15 PM   #8
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Default Re: Path to Yurtizenship

So we've come a long way around since the last update. We felt great about the relationships we forged in our meeting with the city, but were getting the impression that all the expense we'd need to go to to get septic run, electricity in, specs evaluated by architect, and miscellaneous other were making it impractical. Maybe we should just throw all our weight (and money) at and into the house.
But we thought we'd at least meet with an architect, if only to seal our fate.
She said (most importantly for us at that moment) that at her rate it would probably be around $180 to go over the specs and sign them if they looked good. Her advice was to just file for a permit and see what happens. If there are concerns, they can always be appealed.
We let the zoning and building folks know we'd met with the architect, and the zoning fellow said he'd like to meet with us again, at the site this time.
In the meantime we decided to approach the yurt as an accessory structure. We would plan to put utilities in the house as soon as we could do it, live in the house as much as we could, and live in the yurt whenever the house was driving us nuts, which will probably be a lot at first.
At that meeting, which happened last night, the zoning fellow told us he didn't see any problem with permitting the yurt and that, with the architect's signing, the building fellow would likely have no problem with it either.
Moving forward, we need to get "construction drawings" done for the zoning and building applications. I'm thinking that's something we can do ourselves, if they're done accurately. But the spot on the Accessory Structure Zoning Permit pdf that says "New accessory structure: Width ___ x Depth____ = Total Square Feet___" has me smiling, and wondering where I kept my WhiteOut.

"New accessory structure: Radius____ x Radius____ x Pi = Total Square Feet___"
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Last edited by Dan R-M; 09-05-2013 at 01:17 PM. Reason: math trouble
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Old 09-14-2013, 08:58 PM   #9
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Default Re: Path to Yurtizenship

Got the architect's letter of affirmation to clip onto PY's engineering specs. Now I just have to navigate the permit applications... Simple enough if you know the language, but I don't want to make any silly mistakes
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Old 09-18-2013, 11:59 AM   #10
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Default Re: Path to Yurtizenship

I took in the permit app's to the city building today. I told the woman at the front desk I was dropping off a zoning and a building permit application, and flopped them down. Her eyebrows raised seeing the building permit - about 140 pages, since they wanted two of everything, and I included the engineering specs that PY sent me.
Send some positive energy our way!
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