The Lake Dallas City Council approved a zoning change that would make a tiny home park in the downtown district possible.
The council voted 4-1 to change the zoning for a property, located at 206 Gotcher Ave., to a planned development that will eventually house small, typically portable homes that range from 100 to 400 square feet in size.
Local property investor Terry Lantrip owns the one-acre property and wants to turn it into the first urban tiny home community in the Dallas/Fort Worth area and, potentially, the United States.
"This is a really cool thing," Lantrip said. "I think this is a really good prospect for Lake Dallas. This is what's going to turn Lake Dallas around."
Tiny homes have been featured on home-improvement shows, documentaries and news networks. People can tour tiny homes at national festivals or learn how to build their own at workshops across the country. If they don't want to build their own yet, curious travelers can stay in tiny house hotels.
Though tiny homes are piquing people's interest, most cities have zoning requirements and city building codes that make tiny homes illegal. Most tiny home communities are situated on large plots of land in rural areas.
Tiny homes have also been proposed as a potential solution to combat homelessness. Serve Denton has been looking into building tiny homes in the county that would house homeless people. Road to Damascus, a Denton-based organization that assists the homeless, built a tiny house in Sanger for Mary Wilson, a local woman who used to live in a tent near the Rayzor Ranch development.
The Lake Dallas park will have 13 lots available for people to bring in their own tiny homes and pay to park them. The space will also feature on-site laundry facilities, storage areas and a community garden. Lantrip said he hopes to have the first tiny homes on the lot in six months.
"Right now, there are about 2,600 people on the Dallas-Fort Worth Tiny Home Community Facebook page so getting 13 units is not going to be a problem," Lantrip said. "In fact, I have a feeling that we're going to have a lot of people who are very sad they can't live here."
Council members did bring up some concerns about the functionality of the park.
A provision was attached to the zoning change that said Lantrip would need to control the amount of dust that collected from the gravel parking lot.
Lantrip also addressed the issue of compost toilets, a natural plumbing technique popular within the tiny home world that uses decomposition and evaporation to break down waste. He assured council members that all the houses would use regular toilets and connect to the city's sewer lines.
During the public hearing on the issue, three people spoke in favor of the park. One longtime resident, James Bragg, said he liked the concept of tiny houses but opposed a park in the middle of the city.
"I know they said it's not going to be a trailer park, but it's a set-up similar to a trailer park," Bragg said. "I think one thing we want to do in this community is get away from the idea that it's a mobile home community and we have had that reputation in the past. I think these [tiny homes] look great, but as far as what we're trying to develop in our city, I'd rather have some $200,000 homes."
Council member Kathy Brownlee was the lone dissenting vote. She said she believed the park would bring down property values.
"People have spent years and hundreds of thousands of dollars to bring their home values up," she said. "This is going to devalue their property and discourage some people from investing here. There's a reason why these homes aren't allowed in towns."
Council member Andi Nolan disagreed. She said she believed the additional homes downtown would drive foot traffic and attract more businesses.
"I think this makes Lake Dallas look a little more edgy and creative and progressive," Nolan said. "We're doing something different that not every town does."
CAITLYN JONES can be reached at 940-566-6862.