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Crawford cracks down on non-compliant housing

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A number of Crawford residents came before Crawford Town Council on Wednesday, Nov. 8, seeking clarification to a letter they had received from the town.

Their questions were addressed by public works director Bruce Bair, who explained the letter was sent to residents in possible violation of the town's code on people living in non-compliant housing. He brought the issue to council last month. People have been observed living in garages, RVs, busses, and even sheds, which violated both state and local regulations. He said, according to state and local codes, people cannot live in such structures without running water or sewer, or on a lot of less than 5,000 square feet.

Katie Smith was one who received a letter. She elaborated on her situation, noting that her son and his family are living in a structure which had been attached to an old mobile home (which is no longer on the property). It is heated but does not have water or sewer, and they come to her mobile home for bathroom facilities. They are staying with her until "they can get on their feet and can get their own place."

Bair suggested they could become compliant by attaching the structure to her home. This would require that she submit a plan to meet code and obtain a building permit. Trustee Mike Teidemann suggested it could be as simple as a covered walkway, but it would have to meet state and local code.

Another resident asked, "What deems it a livable residence?" Her mother spends days in a small cabin, described as a studio, and spends most nights in the house. The studio does not have water or sewer.

After some discussion, council agreed this instance was probably okay because she was not spending the night in the structure.

Marvin Taggert's situation was more complicated. "I came up here to visit my mother nine years ago and am still visiting," he said. Since then he has become her sole caregiver and initially "camped out" in her living room for two years. About six years ago he acquired a travel trailer to be "my own bedroom." He obtains water from the house spigot, electricity from the house, and has hooked the trailer to the sewer system, which is not legal.

"I do not use chemicals in the holding tanks," he said.

Bair said the town allows an RV to temporarily connect to water for up to 90 days, without an allowance for hooking up to sewer. There is also a concern about property setbacks, but the trailer is mobile and could be relocated to be in compliance.

"What can I do to continue to stay and care for my mother. I can't afford to add onto the house ... what are my options?" asked Taggert. "I am not going to abandon my mother."

Trustee Jeff Peed suggested they reset the clock and give him 90 days to figure out a solution. Trustee Chriss Watters added, "You have to disconnect from the sewer immediately."

Tiedemann cautioned, "If we grant variances in every case, there is no way to put rules on RV parks regarding sewer and water taps and service, and let someone else ignore them."

Former mayor Jim Crook pointed out an example where two mobile homes are on a single lot. Each have water and sewer taps as required by town code. He questioned whether a breezeway to attach a structure would meet town code.

It was also noted that water and sewer taps are not available for RVs or other temporary structures.

The council did agree to give Taggert 90 days to come up with a solution.

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