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Tiny home communities could face new Greenville County rules

Tiny homes in Travelers Rest's Creek Walk community

This row of tiny homes, shown here on Jan. 29, 2021, are among 27 houses in the Creek Walk community's phase-one build out. Creek Walk owner Justin Draplin said he's ready to start manufacturing his own tiny homes, designed for off-the-grid living, in coming months. File/Anna B. Mitchell/Staff

Greenville County revealed at a planning and development committee meeting on May 3 a proposed tiny homes ordinance for County Council to review.

Early last year, a pair of builders announced plans for a community of 74 tiny homes on 15 acres along the shores of Lake Robinson in the Greer area. Known as Farmers Cove, the site did not require zoning to allow the community since it was in an unzoned section of the county.

Neighbors turned out against the community anyway, concerned about the traffic it could bring and the possible environmental issues the septic systems could cause near the drinking water reservoir.

The community’s builders said they planned to expand on another 50 acres in future phases. At 74 homes, it would become the largest tiny home community in the county. Neighbors feared it could grow to more than 330 tiny homes in all. More than 1,200 signed a petition opposing the project.

Farmers Cove received a land disturbance permit in August 2020, said Bob Mihalic, Greenville County spokesman. The site is being graded now.

Councilman Joe Dill said it would be too late to stop Farmers Cove’s initial phase. The developers plan to sell the tiny houses and lease the plots of land for each home, much like a mobile home park. But he hopes Greenville County Council will pass an ordinance that would change how the rest of the project could be built.

The proposed ordinance would guide projects moving forward and provide a separate section of the land development and zoning rules for tiny home communities, which are now treated like a recreational vehicle or mobile home park. It would allow tiny home pocket neighborhoods of four to 30 homes and would require the lots to be sold rather than leased.

“A lot of the proposals that we’ve been receiving, they’re basically RV parks but they’re marketed as tiny homes,” said Rashida Jeffers-Campbell, Greenville County subdivision administrator.

The sweet spot would be communities with eight to 16 homes centered around a common area like a courtyard or garden, Jeffers-Campbell said.

Tiny homes are defined as any home with 400 square feet or less of floor area excluding lofts, she said. They may include traditional single-family styles, manufactured or modular homes, and nontraditional buildings like domes and yurts, which are portable circular buildings usually built with poles and covered with fabric.

The communities began to pop up in Greenville in the last five years, with most developments in the unzoned areas of the county.

In unzoned areas, tiny homes would require 6,000 square-foot lots if using septic tanks and just under 2,000 square-foot lots if connected to sewers, she said. In zoned areas, the communities would be treated like a flexible review district, she said. In either scenario, tiny home communities would be required to submit a preliminary plan for review by the county and the planning commission would have final review over each plan.

Tiny homes would be required to have a front and back porch and two-car driveways. Each house must face common space on the front and rear. The subdivisions would need sidewalks or walkways along all internal roads and a shared private road with one entrance to a public road.

The planning and development committee unanimously recommended approval of the plan May 3.

Follow Nathaniel Cary on Twitter at @nathanielcary

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