Greenpod hits the road to prove a foundational point

Posted 8/7/19

For the first time in eight years, Greenpod Development’s embattled showroom model of their eco-friendly tiny home, “Waterhaus,” did what tiny homes are supposed to do and moved away on the back of a truck.

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Greenpod hits the road to prove a foundational point

Posted

For the first time in eight years, Greenpod Development’s embattled showroom model of their eco-friendly tiny home, “Waterhaus,” did what tiny homes are supposed to do and moved away on the back of a truck.

A landmark at 1531 Sims Way since 2011, the house was loaded up the morning of Aug. 2 and trucked to the Washington Tiny House Show in Puyallup.

For Greenpod owner Ann Raab, the trip to Puyallup is more than an average business trip.

With the help of her employees and Pete’s Towing Service out of Des Moines, WA, Raab unhooked the stairs, packed up the Greenpod business sign and took off out Sims Way on Friday to prove a point to City Hall.

“I gotta make it move,” she said. “I’m showing them that this is what we do.”

Raab is the founder of Greenpod Development, a company that works to create eco-friendly prefabricated tiny homes with an emphasis on highlighting local craftsmen and artisans for the interior design.

Since 2011, Raab has had several showroom models located in the lot of a former gas station on Sims Way. She has been clashing with the city’s development officials over the permitting of the Waterhaus.

Raab initially had an agreement with the city of Port Townsend to use the space for modular homes, for showing and office space only.

But after one of the homes burned down in an electrical fire in February of 2018, the city has given Raab notice that she needs to complete a building permit in order to keep the tiny homes located at the lot.

The fire was caused by a resident who Raab had allowed to live in the showroom, despite initially agreeing that the buildings would not be used for living in. Raab removed the other homes, save the Waterhaus, which has sat at the lot since then.

City documents show that Raab had never completed a permit for the building.

The city issued a citation in July of 2017, stating that Raab would be charged a fine if she did not comply with city building codes for safety reasons.

But Raab is arguing that completing a permit would require permanently affixing the model home to the ground. This goes against her business model.

“We would make it permanent if it was on its final location, but we’re just showing it right now,” she said.

Raab intended to use the space only as a model home area and wants the ability to move the tiny home around so she can take it to shows. Raab says the city code does not require a model home to be affixed to the ground if it is in a model home area.

Raab said she has “lawyered up” to try to fight the city on what they are requiring her to do.

“I don’t even own the property,” she said. “They’re wanting me to put a permanent foundation around a showhouse.”

An April 2018 letter from the owners of the property, Norm and Linda Sather, said that they do not want to have foundations added to the property.

“We are very surprised that the city is insisting on foundations since these are not permanent structures, they are show homes and inventory for sale,” wrote the Sathers. “We would think that they would be treated as a mobile home site, where the mobile homes sit on concrete blocks until sold.”

Raab said the tiny home has a stanchion foundation made of reinforced steel and concrete that meets code requirements.

But the city’s issue with the Waterhaus goes beyond its foundation. The city’s Development Services Department has found that Raab’s tiny home lacked a permit that showed safe and official plans for the home’s construction.

“I could add footings, matter of fact I have it all engineered and ready to go, but why should I?” she said. “There’s no logic to it at all. I’ve already had two engineers show them that the lateral supports are fine, just the way it is.”

A building plan review from the city’s building official Angela Garcia shows that Raab’s construction documents only have partial designs that are not officially “stamped” by engineers.

Because of the city’s citation, Raab has been charged with a $250 fine daily since around February.

“The case has been going on since February, so the fines could be over $40,000,” said Chris Ashcraft, Chief Criminal Deputy for Jefferson County.

Ashcraft is working with city officials to help Raab get into compliance with building code.

“The ultimate goal is not to impose the fines, but instead, to get the person to comply with the code for the good of the community,” Ashcraft said.

Raab has attempted to apply for a permit numerous times, but they have been incomplete, according to city records.

Raab said the city has been difficult to work with.

“They say I timed out,” she said. “I didn’t even know that you could time out on a building permit. … Without saying it, these guys got it in for us. They have been so restrictive to the point of limiting what we can do at all.”

Technically, while the Waterhaus is away at the Washington Tiny House Show, Raab is in the clear: when it’s not there, she is not violating any building code.

But if Raab moves the Waterhaus back, her fight with the city will continue.

“We’ll be back Monday,” she said. “We need to show people the future we are trying to create.”

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