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Program highlights benefits, challenges of building tiny houses
By Lisa Brainard
Wednesday, August 03, 2016 11:06 AM
LISA BRAINARD/NEWS LEADER Kylie Osterhus of Rochester, center, answers questions Friday, July 29, regarding her tiny house on wheels, which is sitting in front of the St. Mane Theatre in Lanesboro.
LISA BRAINARD/NEWS LEADER Looking to the door to the outside in the tiny home on wheels, the kitchen area is to the left and behind the photographer, while a very small bathroom with toilet and shower is to the right. The tiny home is owned by Kylie Osterhus of Rochester.
The “tiny house” movement rolled into Lanesboro on July 28 for a two-day open house – and people came out in droves for the opportunity to tour the small living space on wheels.
“I watch the show (a show on tiny houses) on HGTV and wanted to see one in person,” was a common answer as to why people attended the event sponsored by Lanesboro Arts.
The tiny house on wheels (THOW) of Kylie Osterhus of Rochester was parked in front of the St. Mane Theatre and open for tours two evenings, Thursday and Friday. Additionally, a showing of the documentary “Small Is Beautiful” was held in the theater Friday, July 29, followed by a discussion panel of four tiny home builders and owners.
A few things were highlighted as being tough about the process of building and moving into a tiny home, especially in the documentary shown. While the panelists agreed they were enjoying less cluttered lives of little to no debt and a smaller environmental footprint in their tiny homes, they too, noted issues.
Numerous people in attendance wondered about zoning issues. The owners said a tiny home is basically considered a modified camper, a travel trailer or a mobile home, especially if on wheels. They found that governmental planning and zoning agencies weren’t used to dealing with them, for the most part it was a new thing.
Kenny Brown and Molly Lyn, who share a tiny house, said they faced numerous issues with Winona County Planning and Zoning despite discovering the agency had already permitted one tiny house. Lyn encouraged emailing such an agency, so there’s a written record of correspondence, which a person doesn’t get with a phone call.
It was noted that Minnesota recently passed code allowing a “granny pod” to be built on the site of a family home, to allow caring for an elderly parent. Alex Jones felt this would allow a pathway for planning and zoning agencies to come up with regulations permitting the tiny houses.
Recent college graduate Kylie Osterhus of Rochester — whose tiny house in front of the St. Mane was open for tours — said she was still looking for a place to park her THOW. Osterhus decided to build a tiny house on wheels to save the expense of a mortgage. Her father helped with the construction and her mother helped her decorate it. Auctions were a great place to pick up items for the tiny house.
Lyn laughed and said she started running into Osterhus at many such sales.
Jones, a civil engineer, stated, “(Building a tiny house) is a long process. It’s a huge life decision.”
He decided to do it after spending time in high school at a cabin far in the wilderness, across a lake with no electricity or water. “But it has all the amenities of life… That’s how it started... My wife and I decided to build a tiny house with a design to fit our goals.”
He also noted it’s a challenging process. “You wear many hats. You have to be the right kind of person to do it.”
Osterhus agreed that the effect of nature and the environment helped her to decide on a tiny house. She had served in the Minnesota Conservation Corps (MCC) in the past. She helped to rebuild homes after a flood. She became obsessed with building a tiny home. Hers sits on a utility trailer.
Lyn said she and Brown saw information on tiny homes in a documentary on Netflix. They decided, “We would work on a self-sustaining life.”
Next up for the couple is constructing a lean-to greenhouse.
Lyn added the construction process was a great test for her relationship with Brown. Looking at Brown, she said — with a smile — she was happy to find “like I don’t hate you.”
“Keep your goal in mind. What you get out of it is so much. It’s worth the struggle,” she added. Lyn also noted it brings people together to help build the tiny house.
Brown stated, “Family is amazing.”
So there are many positive reasons to build a tiny home. But remember — if considering one — there may be just as many hurdles that deserve consideration as well.
Lanesboro Arts presented the tiny house program.
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