New rules for tiny homes in Lexington County set

If you’ve ever wanted a tiny home of your own in Lexington County, new rules being voted on by the county council could give your smaller dreams the go-ahead.

Lexington County Council gave approval Wednesday to an ordinance that will regulate increasingly popular “tiny homes” by treating the housing type under the same rules the county uses to handle mobile homes.

A tiny home is generally defined as a home with at most 400 square feet of floor space, excluding lofts. The minimalist design has gained popularity as an affordable and ecologically conscious alternative to larger homes, but at times construction of tiny homes has clashed with local zoning rules in various parts of the country.

The new rules cover a variety of tiny homes — stick-built structures, modular units, manufactured homes, recreational vehicles and park models — but all will be regulated as “individual land use activities” like any residential dwelling.

The rules adopted by Lexington County Council will treat tiny home construction in the unincorporated parts of the county under Lexington County’s mobile home regulations. In many parts of the county’s revised ordinance approved Wednesday, the words “and/or tiny homes” are simply added to any mention of mobile homes.

New rules will still require a third and final reading by the council before going into effect.

The ordinance also allows for “tiny home parks” in Lexington County under the same rules as mobile home parks. A tiny home park will be created when three or more tiny homes are “located within 1,000 feet of one another and operated in any coordinated manner,” and one of the three minimum houses is not the primary residence of the owner.

Under the rules, an additional home can be built on the same property for an immediate family member with special needs, but it must be removed if the family member no longer lives there to avoid park rules from kicking in. Minimum lot sizes for a park are between 6,000 and 20,000 square feet, depending on the park’s classification. A maximum of 25 homes shall be placed on one unpaved driveway. There must be a minimum of 10 feet between any two tiny homes, with a maximum of four units per acre, and set-back and buffering rules for any development will be applied.

Permitting for a tiny home park will require approval from the county Board of Zoning Appeals. A park will lapse if 50% of units are either removed or abandoned for 12 months. Existing tiny home parks can continue operating for five years before they have to meet compliance standards.

Tiny homes on their own have a more extensive residential permitting than tiny home parks under the county’s zoning classifications.

The rules would also require a tiny home to have at least two parking spaces available wherever it happens to be located.

The Lexington County Planning Commission previously approved the tiny home rules by a unanimous vote with very little discussion, County Administrator Lynn Sturkie told council members. The rules will apply in the unincorporated parts of the county and don’t preclude cities and towns from adopting their own rules.