RIPLEY • During the City of Ripley Board of Aldermen meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 2, zoning board member Chris Lewellen asked aldermen for input and clarification regarding "tiny houses' inside city limits.

"I have been getting a lot of phone calls, almost weekly now, pertaining to wanting to put what we would consider a modular home, manufactured home, or even what some of us would probably define as a 'tiny house' into some residential areas of the city that are defined as R1."

Lewellen said that there are definitions of a manufactured home, a modular home, and a mobile home in the zoning ordinance, but he wasn't sure where a "tiny home" would fall. He said the zoning board did not want to give authorization for the structures without knowing if the zoning board's definition and the aldermen's definition of a modular home or "tiny house" were the same.

"We want you guys to help us to find the distinction on where we put either a modular home or a manufactured tiny house. Can in any circumstance that go into an R1 residential area?"

Mayor Chris Marsalis said, in the past, the city has required all homes to be on a solid foundation, connected to the ground. Marsalis wanted to know if the home would be the only structure on the property. He said most residential lots are meant for only one residence.

"We've had folks who have wanted to bring in what I would classify as a 'tiny house' and set it up, whether it's on a foundation or on a slab that had previously been there, and block in around it like you would a traditional foundation.  I've had many phone calls about it," continued Lewellen.

Lewellen said some of the calls he has received didn't fit his definition of what he thought was a traditional house for an R1 residential zoned area. He said other zoning board members believed that the same requests fit the definition.

"From a tiny home perspective, we need to have a line drawn somewhere that we can stand behind, and you guys can stand behind, so there will be no competing arguments," continued Lewellen.

Marsalis asked if Lewellen could find out from other cities how they addressed the issue and said he also would look into it.

Aldermen Stephen Freeman said he would contact an inspector in Union County as well.

"We're trying to protect the value of existing homes, no matter where they are," said Lewellen. "And just because a structure fits a definition by default doesn't mean that somebody can move in and then devalue somebody else's property. That's why I think there needs to be a definition in the zoning ordinance relating to tiny homes."

Lewellen conveyed that the zoning committee prefers that the aldermen develop that definition.

Aldermen Jackie McKenzie asked if the zoning board had received requests to develop an area of tiny houses similar to a trailer park. Lewellen said the only requests they had received were for singular homes on residential lots.

Marsalis said the board needed to look at codes from other small cities and see how they address tiny homes, and then they would have to have a hearing on the issue. Lewellen said he hoped they could have some additional information by the next zoning board session.

"Somehow, we've got to line up the definition of that tiny home to where we can legally put it in our residential ordinances. Tiny homes are common knowledge now, and it's going to have to be in the ordinance at some point," Lewellen concluded.

Other business conducted during the meeting included:

• The board approved the extension of the local executive order requiring masks inside public buildings.

• Aldermen approved the hiring of temporary summer help for the park.

• The board approved the medical, dental, and vision insurance from Ripley Insurance Agency.

• The board approved the request for Lisa Mauney and Kathi Watson to attend the 50th annual spring conference.

• Aldermen only received one quote for the sidewalks at Nance Park. The quote was from Robert Builders. The board tabled the agenda item until more quotes are acquired.

• Aldermen approved Elyse Story's sponsorship for $50 in the Miss Eco Teen MS Pageant.

• The board approved for Kathi Watson to attend a leadership conference at no charge to the city.

• The board approved for Robert Wilbanks to attend Mississippi Natural Gas Association Tradeshow in Tupelo.

• Aldermen approved the Gas Purchase Resolution re: Southeast Energy Authority.

• Aldermen approved the motion to set a public hearing for clean-up properties on Northwest Street.

Marsalis informed the board he had a report from the zoning committee where they had accepted an application to change a commercial lot to a residential lot on Parkview Drive.

A public hearing will be held before the zoning board at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 25, at city hall. Those wishing to be heard regarding the changes are invited to attend the meeting. See legal in the classified section of this issue for more information.

 "I didn't see any problem with it myself," said Marsalis. "There's a commercial lot that extends to the highway that borders that lot. They're going to have to understand that they will be adjacent to a commercial lot; that's not going to change."

He asked that aldermen, who had issues with the request, let the zoning board know before the public hearing.

The board discussed no further business. The next regular Ripley Board of Aldermen meeting is Tuesday, March 2 at 5 p.m.

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