Miniaturized floor plans raised in climate action talk

By Valerie Urbanik -

Tiny homes could be allowed in the city limits in the name of environmental progress — but just how far the floor plans will shrink is anyone’s guess.

An idea to use shipping containers to build avant-garde manufactured houses was explored in a Dec. 2 meeting of the Oberlin planning commission. Nicole Kendrick of the Lorain-based J. Evans Custom Home Construction spoke on how the containers could be converted into living spaces.

But commission members didn’t seem taken with the idea last Wednesday when they convened for the first time in 2016.

Instead, they opted to focus on discussion of mininum square footage rules for traditional balloon frame homes.

The smallest allowed under Oberlin’s current ordinances are 720 square feet for single families living in R1-zoned areas, and 480 square feet per family in R2 duplexes.

Going even smaller could give residents the flexibility to help reach Oberlin’s Climate Action Plan goals, said planning commission chair Matt Adelman.

The commission wants to focus on affordability, efficiency, and protecting existing home owners. “Those seem to be three very important things we would like to tackle,” Adelman said.

“I think there’s a good purpose here in designing some language in our zoning ordinance to allow this,” said vice-chair Peter Crowley.

It is unclear whether the smaller-floor plan homes will be built in one set location or within existing neighborhoods.

Member Ellen Mavrich said the commission will have to look at a map of Oberlin to see where such homes could be built because there are a few very large lots inside the city limits.

She was worried about many tiny homes being raised on very large lots.

“But there are not a lot of big empty lots,” said planning director Carrie Handy. “There might be some neighborhoods without a vacant lot.”

“We have to be very careful about where we allow these houses,” said member Eric Gaines.

The commission directed Handy to look at what other cities are doing and how they handle tiny wooden-frame homes.

Valerie Urbanik can be reached at 440-775-1611 or on Twitter @ValUrbanik.

By Valerie Urbanik