York Supervisor Calls Out Building Regulation Division for ‘Witch Hunt’ to Get Rid of Tiny Home

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Tom and Karen Rogers purchased their tiny house in May after a tree fell on their RV (Marie Albiges/WYDaily)
Tom and Karen Rogers purchased their tiny house in May after a tree fell on their RV. (Marie Albiges/WYDaily)

As state officials look into how a tiny house can comply with building standards and remain in York County, one supervisor has taken a stance to defend the home and its owners.

“I’d like the county to be proactive and see if we can’t work with the Rogers to see what can be done to make that thing fit,” Supervisor Walt Zaremba said at York County Board of Supervisors work session Tuesday night, referring to the 565-square-foot home of Karen and Tom Rogers.

The married couple owns the home in Bruton Mobile Home Park, located in Upper York County, and has been fighting with the county since October to remain where they are, even though the county says the home does not meet the proper state building standards enforced by the county.

“It’s a little less than a witch hunt with respect to that office down there,” Zaremba said, referring to the York County division of building regulation. He said instead of helping the Rogers family find a way to modify their home to comply with the standards, “It’s, ‘let’s see what we can do to rid the county of this particular property.’”

The home, which the county refers to as a recreational vehicle, was custom-built by Lil’ Lodges, a Florida-based company that traditionally sells park model homes, and installed in Bruton Mobile Home Park last May.

A citation by the county — who said the house was not certified by the Department of Housing and Urban Development and therefore violated the county ordinance — sent the Rogers family to the Board of Zoning Appeals in December.

The BZA granted a variance by a vote of 3-2, which allowed the house to remain in the mobile home park.

The York County Board of Supervisors then appealed the BZA’s decision, sending the matter to court. The appeal is now pending review in York-Poquoson Circuit Court.

In the meantime, the county’s building code official Marianne Harris sent a letter to State Building Codes Director Cindy Davis asking what can physically be done to the structure to make it comply with the state’s standards for unregistered industrialized buildings.

“Instead of being proactive, we were quick to correspond to the state,” said Zaremba, who represents the district in which the home sits.

Interim County Administrator Mark Carter said the state building codes official is looking into the matter, and added the county’s division of building regulation received a call Tuesday from the state regarding the tiny house.

“I can’t remember when we ever required a citizen to pack up his belongings and leave when he violates an ordinance,” Zaremba said, adding the department of codes and compliance is “attempting to nail these tax-paying citizens” with deficiencies that are likely to be found in other trailers in the mobile home park.

In her March 25 letter to the state building codes director, Harris lists 16 items pertaining to the house that she says do not meet Virginia’s building codes, including several height inconsistencies in the loft area, which Karen Rogers says is used as storage space.

Karen and Tom Rogers maintain their home is built above the required standards and is safer than most mobile homes, with its hurricane straps that wrap around the house, its triple framing around the windows and its five-axle frame.

Rebekah Sandridge, who is challenging Zaremba in the Republican primary for the District 1 seat on the board of supervisors, said in an April 6 news release she supported Karen and Tom Rogers and criticized the county for filing an appeal.

“I find it fascinating and disheartening that York County would use valuable resources to harass a retired couple who have chosen to live in a tiny home in Upper York County,” she said. “… No one in York County should go to bed at night worried that they and their safe, comfortable home might be removed because they don’t fit into the current outdated statutes.”

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