This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2011, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
The McMansion is as dead for many Americans as the fax machine. Zoning laws should be rewritten to account for that new reality.
Which brings us to Chris Jaussi, who is attuned to the spirit of the times. His Zip Kit Homes, located in Mount Pleasant, manufactures small, energy-efficient houses in a factory. The components are delivered on a flatbed truck, and the owners can assemble them on a foundation or hire Zip Kit to do the job.
But there's a problem. Sanpete County has a law that specifies a minimum size for single-family homes. That ordinance effectively outlaws the smaller homes that Zip Kit makes, which is unfortunate. Considering the barriers to owning a single, detached home that the housing collapse and the slow economy have created, Zip Kit sounds like it would be the answer for some folks.
The price for its kit for a 576-square-foot home is a little north of $31,000. Land, foundation, other site costs and putting the kit together would be in addition. Still, that would sound good to singles or couples, retirees or small families.
That's why Sanpete County should figure out how to rewrite its ordinance to allow Zip Kit and similar homes. The Planning and Zoning Commission is at work on that right now.
The current law apparently was enacted in the 1980s when the county government was trying to get a handle on mobile homes and trailer homes. That's understandable, but times and the economy have changed.
Not only does the Zip Kit model fit smaller budgets. It matches the emerging ethic among many Americans that bigger isn't always better, that there is a moral imperative to keeping one's carbon footprint small, that precision manufacturing in a factory might produce a better dwelling than a stick-built home. Zip Kit plays to that ethos. Its homes are equipped with solar panels and they are advertised as so efficient that it is possible for their owners to live off the grid.
Is this the home that everyone will want? No. But that's a decision for individual buyers, not government. Zip Kit looks to fill a market niche that definitely is there, and it's a local manufacturing business looking to make good and create jobs. That's another reason to tear down the zoning barrier to its product.
The size of the company's larger model home, at 1,050 square feet, would have been familiar to people of the World War II generation. That was a time when Americans' appetites were more modest and their ability to delay gratification and avoid debt were celebrated. It's time for a replay.