Sedgwick County Commission approves tiny house near Valley Center

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SEDGWICK COUNTY, Kan. Update Wednesday, May 10:

The Sedgwick County Commission voted Wednesday to allow a tiny house to stay on property in the area of 84th North and Oliver, near Valley Center. This comes after months of backlash from neighbors, worried the home would hurt their property values.

The main issue is that current zoning code does not say anything about how to handle tiny houses. That's why the county had to approve the space as a "one unit RV park."

That had some neighbors upset, but the tiny house owner is just relieved she can finally move in.

"It's emotional because it's gone so far," tiny house owner Jordan Mullen says.

Mullen built the house herself, but until now, she has not been able to live there.

"There was always that chance of it not getting approved because it is so new," she says.

Because current zoning language does not say anything about tiny houses, Mullen had to rely on the county commission to approve the conditional use permit for the space.

"Because it's on wheels, (it is) classified as an RV," Sedgwick County Commission Chairman Dave Unruh says.

Unruh says there should be some changing in zoning language as the tiny house trend takes off.

"We ought to clean it up so that we're not faced with this again," he says. "Tiny homes are an exemption that will be categorized as a permanent residence, or as a stable residence rather than an RV park."

Throughout the process, Mullen has dealt with neighbors worried how the "RV park" would impact their property values. Mullen's aunt, a real estate agent, says they should not be concerned because the tiny home will not impact neighboring resale values.

Mullen says she is ready to make the tiny house her home.

"I'm just excited to have a little chunk of land for now, take care of it, and enjoy my family, and keep going," she says.

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Original story from March 24:

A tiny house is causing big controversy in Sedgwick County.

The city-county planning and zoning commission doesn't have policies in place to zone tiny homes, which means the applicants for a new tiny house had to request approval for a "recreational vehicle campground" zoning.

Neighbors in the area of 84th and Oliver voiced their concerns Thursday, worried the 240-square foot home will devalue their properties.

"I'm just emotional. We moved out there with a dream home, so I strongly object to this," said Stan Cochran, who lives in the area.

Six neighbors from the area spoke out at Thursday's meeting against approving zoning for the one tiny house, and about 20 were there to oppose the measure.

The new tiny house is located in an area of Valley Center with a lot of nice homes - many of them valued in $300,000 to half-million dollar range.

Jordan Mullen brought this home onto her aunt and uncle's 4.5 acre property last month in the area last month.

Mullen says Sedgwick County officials told her because there's no zoning policy specific for tiny homes, to apply for a "conditional use RV campground" zoning permit, which would allow her tiny home (which has wheels) to be on the property.

"Just one, and it's a tiny home, not a camper," Mullen said.

But that zoning title,has nearby homeowners worried.

"Merely having an RV campground in our backyard puts our property values at risk whether it's one tiny home or 10. It degrades the character of our area and hence, our financial investments," said Stephanie Bohen, who also lives in the area.

Jordan's aunt, Crista McKay, has been a real-estate agent for 20 years. She says the tiny home is like a car or trailer, and won't impact property value.

"It has no bearing on the ground it's on or my house which is directly to the east," McKay said.

Mullen and McKay also say it's unlikely to start a trend in the neighborhood because the zoning approval is just for one "RV," on private land.

Mullen also says she didn't realize so many neighbors were upset.

"Mainly I was surprised because I've gotten a lot of feedback, positive feedback, from a lot of my neighbors, and they bring me cookies and bring me their phone numbers," she said.

She asked the commission to defer its vote Thursday so she can talk with her neighbors.

"Because they're my neighbors. I would've loved to hear from them first and see if we can work with them. Push it back or do something. Work with them," Mullen said.

The recommending body suggests approving the zoning, based on two similar past cases.

No matter how they rule, a petitioner can appeal, and then decision would go to the Sedgwick county Commissioners.

The commission said it has plans ask the staff of the recommending body - Wichita Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (WAMPO) - to look into whether there needs to be new policies written for tiny homes.

Other concerns of some neighbors - why the tiny house is already there if it hasn't been approved and zoned yet. Mullen said they built the house on her parent's property and brought it over after Westar said it needed to see the property on the unit. There's no water or electricity, and Mullen says she does not live there yet, though has spent a lot of time on the property working on the tiny home.

Water and sewer: Mullen has a self-composting toilet. Her water will have a wetland filtration system approved by the Sedgwick County Waste Water Manager.