A Michigan couple was told that by the government that their environmentally-sound 240 square feet home was too small and violated a law requiring houses to measure at least 800 square feet.
Rolf and Mari von Walthausen, a Leelanau County couple who live on 50 acres, wanted to reduce their environmental footprint. So they worked with the Centerville Township government for ten months to convince them that the archaic ordinance should be changed.
If the minimum square footage requirement were to be removed, it would revert to the minimum allowed in the Michigan state building code, which is 120 square feet.
While the planning commission and department agreed with the couple and recommended a change to the law, the Centerville Township board voted 3-2 against lowering the 800 square feet minimum.
Ironically, Rolf and Mari von Walthausen present workshop in northern Michigan called “Build Your Shelter, Rebuild Your Life Build Your Shelter, Rebuild Your Life.”
In other words, they teach people how to reduce their environmental footprint. This is defined by the Cambridge Dictionary as “the effect that a person, company, activity, etc. has on the environment, for example the amount of natural resources that they use and the amount of harmful gases that they produce:”
Law designed to keep out trailers
Why is there a minimum square footage requirement on the books in Centerville?
In the 1970s, townships across the country enacted laws like this in an attempt to prevent people from living in trailers.
However, the laws never accomplished its goal, as the trailer industry responded by making their structures slightly bigger.
Crazy reasoning used to keep law
Here’s where the story gets really crazy.
The planning board wisely recommended the law be dropped because “they couldn’t think of a reason why a person’s home should be at least 800 square feet.”
However, the board members who voted to keep the amendment used “inverse logic.” For example, Supervisor Kelenski explained his position by saying that he wanted to keep the ordinance “because no one could come up with a reason why it should be removed.”
“It’s been in effect for 30 years,” he said. “To change it for one customer, one resident, it seems kind of absurd.”
David Wurm, the clerk, said he was concerned that people could build a small, ugly shack and an unlimited number of people could move in.
Board members all agreed that the von Walthausen's place is attractive, but “that’s no guarantee that everybody will build one to that perfection,” Kalenski said.
That reasoning made no sense to the planning board chairman. “A big ugly house is way worse than a small ugly house,” said Tim Johnson.
Rolf von Walthausen told the board that he should purchase a run-down trailer for $1 on Craigslist and have it hauled to his land. “As long as it was over 800 square feet, I’d be legal,” he quipped.
Clerk David Wurm said that the von Walthausens are welcome to purchase a junk trailer, because “at least they would be living within the township rules.”
For more information, see Not a Small World After All
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