Port Townsend celebrates its first ‘Tiny House on Wheels’

By Kirk Boxleitner
Posted 12/27/23



Port Townsend’s first “Tiny House on Wheels” (THOW) was celebrated by both the property’s owners and the city officials who helped make it possible …

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Port Townsend celebrates its first ‘Tiny House on Wheels’




Port Townsend’s first “Tiny House on Wheels” (THOW) was celebrated by both the property’s owners and the city officials who helped make it possible with a private and largely informal holiday wreath-hanging ceremony on Dec. 18.

Bob and Elaine Grimm, who own the property, are using it to house their youngest daughter, her husband and the couple’s baby, after the Grimms had explored housing options for all their adult children, as they’ve weighed the scarcity of affordable housing within the city against the costs of commuting from out in the county.

“We want to be closer to our grandkids,” Elaine Grimm chuckled, before turning serious. “One of sons finally resigned himself to a single-bedroom apartment for $2,000 in monthly rent, to save time and gas, because that’s all he could find.”

Grimm noted that younger families are even further hemmed-in by the expenses of raising children, between clothes they rapidly grow out of, and youth sporting equipment.

Grimm expressed her gratitude not only to Don Tucker of the Sequim-based Park Sales for furnishing them with a suitable “Tiny House on Wheels,” but also the city of Port Townsend, first for its tactical housing code amendments in July — making the city one of the first communities in the state to allow THOWs as Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) — then for expediting the permitting process.

According to Emma Bolin, director of planning and community development for the city, the permit application was submitted Oct. 2 and approved on Oct. 18, 2023, “so a little over two weeks to wait for that permit, after which City Building Official Matt Logue approved the final inspection on Dec. 11, albeit with conditions to paint the house’s skirting when the weather is more favorable.

“So overall, it was a two-month process, from the application submission to being move-in ready,” Bolin said. “Our team worked closely with the Grimms before they ordered the THOW, since this is our first one, so we could ensure it met the city’s requirements. That conversation started over the summer.”

After they learned about the city’s code changes this summer, the Grimms decided they wanted to be the first to purchase a THOW, and go through the new permitting process to add an ADU in their backyard.

“We wanted to demonstrate success, and be a model to others, so people can see (that) this can be done,” Elaine Grimm said. “This is achievable for many in our community.”

After conducting their own research, the Grimms opted for a factory-assembled structure, rather than a traditional stick-built home, to reduce the time needed to permit, order and deliver the home, since the process would also include connecting their own home’s water and sewer line to the new THOW, once it arrived.

Bob Grimm credited the THOW sales team with going “above the call of duty” to “identify a unit” and “ensure that the extra insulation and tempered windows requirements by the city would be met.”

Logue echoed the Grimms’ praise for Tucker, noting that his company was able to deliver the “Tiny House on Wheels” within two and a half weeks of it being ordered, since the company already designs its THOWs to live up to “stringent” building and fire codes, without needing to be prompted to do so.

The Grimms’ unit is a Fleetwood Model CASCADIA 12351L, which measures 391 square feet and features a loft, and because the Grimms’ unit was approved by the city, others can apply for a permit for the same unit, with the Grimms’ added features, knowing it meets city requirements.

“It’s our hope that others can order the same unit, along with the modifications the Grimms specified, and enjoy the same fast permit turnaround,” Bolin said. “Permits are required to review the property, to ensure the unit placement will comply with other requirements, such as zoning, setbacks, tie-downs, plumbing and critical area buffers, if present. My team embraces helping people, and welcomes anyone to talk to us about the permitting process, or if they have a different THOW unit model in mind.”

“It is great to be a part of the team that helped bring this new code to the city,” Logue said. “It’s just another tool in our toolbox, to help combat our housing crisis. These units can be a safe, fast and less-expensive option for homeowners, when compared to traditional construction.”

“We are pleased that this is a housing code that the community can use,” Bolin said. “Each new home, tiny or otherwise, adds to the desperately needed supply in our region. Our efforts to be one of the first communities in the state to adopt this code means we have a head-start on working out any issues as implementation moves forward. We hope other communities will learn alongside us.”