Sunday, March 29, 2015

Michelle The Tiny House Advocate - Part I

A little over a month ago, the mayor of my little town posted a video inviting everyone to come appear in front of the city council to express their ideas for a new neighborhood that is currently in the planning stage.  I wrote up a 5 minute speech, and attended the next meeting.  I couldn’t have asked for a better response.  The council members asked questions, and commented, and I was invited to apply for a seat on the Planning Commission.
So many projects, so little time!
My speech was so well received; I thought that others could maybe benefit from my speech as well. The following week I posted my speech on facebook  with an “insert your city name here” invitation.  I received dozens of emails from tiny house enthusiasts asking for suggestions and encouragement and ideas that they could use when they face their local zoning authorities.

I have also posted the entire speech at the bottom of this blog post. 
Please, do, copy it to your computer and use it!

Just a few days later, I had an open house for the local Meetup group.  My house isn’t done but as it turns out there were a LOT of people that wanted to see a tiny house in progress.  Over 40 people showed up and we had a great time.  After everyone else had gone, a gentleman showed up and told me he was on the committee that was responsible for the zoning of the new neighborhood.  We debated a bit.  He gave me the opportunity to reverse his original impression of tiny houses as transient solutions for the homeless and/or houses that would necessitate a mobile home park layout.  When he left he said “You’ve convinced me.  Tiny houses and cottages WOULD be a good idea for our little town.”

It was such a beautiful day for a  tour!
Last week I interviewed for a position on the Planning Commission.  I didn’t get the “gig” but once I understood the time commitment required I will admit that I would have been hesitant to accept it, even if offered.  I just don’t have 10 hours a week to spare for a volunteer position.  On a positive note, however, I discovered that I can still be a part of the zoning discussion by attending Planning Commission meetings and work sessions designed to elicit community feedback on a real time basis.  This level of engagement would certainly be a much better use of my time since I won’t be attending EVERY planning commission meeting like those that would include a review of new traffic lights, building permits, store front signage applications, etc….

Just yesterday I received a call from a reporter from the Oregonian.  (the “big city” newspaper covering stories throughout Oregon)  She was in attendance and heard my speech at the city council meeting.  Afterwards, she asked me for my business card and was following up on our initial meeting.  (though I had NO idea that she was a reporter when I met her the first time.) She had nothing but complimentary things to say about my presentation and has requested her own tour of my tiny house and asked me if I would like to be interviewed for an article about my project, and tiny house advocacy efforts.  Of course, I agreed, and I’m pretty excited.

I don’t know what will happen next but I’m very optimistic about the future and the many opportunities for me to make even a tiny difference, one town at a time, starting with mine.

"WELCOME" to my tiny house!

Here’s my speech:

If you’re a baby boomer, your kids have grown and moved out, and you’d like to downsize to a home with less expense, and upkeep; what are your options here in Sherwood?

If you have aging parents whom you want to live near you, but not with you, that have limited income, but are not ready for an assisted living facility, what are your options here in Sherwood?

If you’ve recently graduated from college, got a new job, have student loans to pay, and want to live a simple car-free life while still having the ability to stay engaged with the community of Sherwood, what are your options here in Sherwood?

My name is Michelle Boyle, I am Sherwood resident, and am here to begin a dialogue about tiny houses and to be an advocate for socially and fiscally responsible living.  As you may know, I am building a tiny house right now, in the driveway of my rental home.  When I am done, I would like to consider moving out of my rental home and into my tiny home but what are my options if I want to do so, and stay in Sherwood?

Let me be clear.  Apartment living is not an answer for everyone.  Our aging population may have difficulty climbing stairs.  And, I can assure you, the growing young families living in our community do not enjoy lugging groceries and strollers up several flights either.  If you personally had the choice between a small quaint cottage in a little village setting, or an apartment with a pool you never use, which would you choose? 

I have been invited to come here today, to share my opinions on what can and should be done with the newly annexed area, west of Sherwood.  And in my opinion, Sherwood has an amazing opportunity to set themselves apart, once again, from our sprawling neighbors and consider more thoughtful and sustainable living options like tiny house communities. Not everyone needs, or can sustain, a 2300 square foot home and the recent downturn in the economy has proven that bigger is not always better.  While I understand that developers may initially favor apartments and large homes for their positive return on investments, when you consider the carbon footprints or the average sustained home values per square foot, I would encourage them, and you, to look again.

You would have to be in a cave to have NOT noticed that tiny houses are gaining popularity on all fronts.  Empty Nesters, Baby Boomers, recent college graduates, small families with their eyes on sustainability….are all eyeing the financial advantages of living responsibly.  These are not poor residents who have no other options than to live tiny.  They instead, and like myself, look forward to spending less on housing costs so we can give back and spend more on dining out, traveling and contributing more of our time and money to non-profit and art focused organizations.

If you were in charge of recruiting perfect residents for Sherwood, aren’t those the kind of people you want to attract?

If you want to gain the national spotlight for being a progressive, socially, and environmentally responsible town, shouldn’t you consider zoning rules which encourage the lifestyles that focus on those goals?

I am here to merely start the dialogue about tiny homes.  But, I am not just here to start the dialogue and leave it up to you to finish it.  What can I do?  Who do I talk to or meet with to make this happen?  What committee should I join or what other evidence would you like me to present to you?

I may be the ONLY person who stands before you to talk about tiny homes.  But, rest assured, it’s only because so many have not actively considered the out-of-box thinking they require.  Once you think about it, tiny homes and communities make sense.  They make sense for us all, residents and township alike, and are something that even the most extreme of community activists will..…no doubt….rally behind.












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