A Calhoun nonprofit says it is challenging the city’s current zoning requirements as it pertains to tiny homes.
Tiny House Hand Up, represented by the Institute for Justice, says they have submitted a lawsuit to the Superior Court for Gordon County on Tuesday.
“It has become necessary to take this step because we promised the people of Calhoun affordable housing,” THHU Executive Director Cindy Tucker said in a press conference Wednesday.
THHU says the suit is challenging what the group calls an “arbitrary restriction” on tiny homes, and the group claims the City of Calhoun is “violating the Georgia Constitution.”
“There is no health or safety reason to ban smaller homes,” IJ Attorney Erica Smith Ewing said in a release. “People around the country live in smaller homes without any issues, even in Calhoun in homes built before the ban.”
A requested variance for a tiny home development failed to come to a vote at the Calhoun City Council meeting on Oct. 11.
The variance of 610 feet less than the minimum floor area of 1,150 requested the organization for a development off Beamer Road and Harris Beamer Road died without a motion following a public hearing.
Several citizens turned out to speak against the variance during on Oct. 11, and following a public hearing, no motion to vote on the variance request was made by anyone on the council, thus the issue died.
The group says its ready to break ground on what it calls “Cottages at King Corner,” a community of southern-style cottages with 540 to 600 square feet of living space in each home.
“We know that the market is there. We know that people are interested in purchasing these homes,” Tucker said. “I don’t care if it’s 1%, if we can help that 1%, we need to do that.”
A donated 7.9-acre parcel at the corner of Beamer Road and Harris Beamer Road near Georgia Northwestern Technical College.
“People have different reasons for wanting to live in a smaller house, from downsizing and simplicity to affordability,” said IJ Attorney Joe Gay. “Calhoun shouldn’t make these personal choices illegal.”
THHU says it would accept either a variance or a change to the overall zoning requirements in this particular case.
“The goal is to strike down the minimum square footage for everyone in Calhoun,” Ewing said, adding that her group believes any such requirement for property owners is “unfair and unconstitutional.”
Going forward the suit may have a larger reach, according to Ewing.
“It’s going to help cities across the nation, because this is not the only Calhoun who has done this,” she said.
For now, the suit has been filed and is waiting to move forward.
“We are waiting for the judge to approve the paperwork,” Ewing said, adding that process could take only hours or several days. “After that it’s going to be up to the courts. We are very optimistic about our chances.”
As of Wednesday morning, the city was choosing to withhold comment on the matter until a suit moves forward.
“It would be improper for the City of Calhoun to make any comment regarding a matter presently under consideration for a ruling by the Chief Judge of the Cherokee Judicial Circuit,” City Attorney George Govignon said in an email. “At this stage of the litigation it cannot be independently confirmed that the matter has even been filed with the Clerk of Superior Court for Gordon County pursuant to O.C.G.A. 5-4-6.”
If allowed to move forward, Tucker says THHU is still ready to begin the first phase of the project.
“We still have everything lined up to begin with six homes on the property donated to us,” she said. “There is a lot of work to be done, but we are ready.”