Lyon County approves tiny houses code amendment

The Lyon County Commission approved a code amendment last week that directs staff to proceed with establishing its regulations and uses for tiny houses as accessory dwelling units.

The item, returning after discussion during the board’s Jan. 6 meeting, addresses the 2021 Nevada Legislature’s Senate Bill 150 requirement that the governing bodies of counties incorporate regulations regarding tiny houses to be used as single-family dwelling units under certain circumstances. SB 150 follows Appendix Q of the International Residential Code, prescribed by the International Code Council, which defines tiny houses as dwellings that are 400 square feet or less in floor area excluding lofts.

Tiny houses, as required by the 2018 IRC, must have a living area, kitchen and bathroom that can be built to fit within the 400-square-foot area.

The item was continued Jan. 6 to provide staff additional time to research the item and the four types and regulations available to the county.

Community Development director Andrew Haskin presented these options on Jan. 20. Haskin went into detail about “stick-built construction” in which the houses are built on site utilizing standard residential construction methods on a foundation. The homes could be fashioned in modular construction offsite in sections at a factory, assembled on site and placed on a foundation. In a manufactured or made-to-order construction scenario, the house is built off site and certified by the manufacturer in compliance with Housing and Urban Development standards and brought on site on wheels, then to be removed and placed on foundation. The final option is a recreational park trailer, which is mounted on a chassis and mobile; however, this is not intended for long-term residential use.
Section 1 of 2021’s SB 150 gave county governments of populations less than 100,000 to designate either a zoning district in which a tiny house could be located and classified as an accessory dwelling unit, a zoning district in which a tiny house can be located and classified as a single-family residence or a zoning district in which a tiny house can be located in a tiny house park.


If the county were to choose the tiny house park option, staff would have to present regulations in Title 15 that show certain requirements for each tiny house unit such as minimum space, structural separation, municipal water and service and common space and recreational amenities.


But Lyon County, as other local governments had during the 2021 legislative session, raised concerns about potential impacts on rural areas without providing municipal water or sewer services to tiny houses place on a minimum of one-acre parcels and the use of the underground water supply for communities in accordance with Nevada Administrative Code 444.790.


Accessory dwelling units, as an alternative, are permitted in agricultural, resource, residential, commercial/mixed use and employment zoning districts and require review of certain development standards. They are subject to a maximum square footage of no greater than 50% of the primary residence or 1,100 square foot of the floor area, be located to the rear or side of the main structure and cannot exceed the height of the primary structure, among other requirements.


County senior planner Rob Pyzel clarified the tiny houses would only be allowed in the mixed use portion of any commercial/mixed use zoning.


Most of the commissioners expressed they had favored the accessory dwelling unit zoning, with Commissioner Wes Henderson arguing for it as the better choice should a large employer enter the county and housing becomes an issue.


Commissioner Vida Keller said she also continued to support the 
accessory use, contending at the last meeting it would alleviate with the county’s homeless plight.

“That’s what we fought for in the Legislature, so we have that ability,” Keller said. “At this point, not that things won’t change in the future, and I’m not against tiny homes in Lyon County, but most of Lyon County is still rural and we do have water and sewer issues.”


The motion passed 5-0.

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