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Texas Country Reporter – Comes to Spur

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SPUR MAKES NBC NEWS

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Something Very Special

I flew into Spur, Jan 15th in hopes of finding a new home. I was only there 2 days and realized there was something very special about this place, it’s history and it’s people. So, i flew back home, put in a request for 2 lots in the Freeman area of town, and began the process of leaving full time jobs, selling a house, and planning on a cross country move. I made a commitment to a company that builds tiny homes….and put my money down. (i.e. major commitment).

Five months later, June 15th, I  drove into town (just moved back to Texas (after 24 years away) from Charleston, South Carolina. I was a bit nervous? What if I made a mistake? It only took a few minutes to dismiss that thought.

I met John Schmidt and we drove out to my lots to see where I wanted my house to land. Along the way, he told me stories of Spur back in the day, as he is one of those Spurites, that left to find work, and later came back to retire. I can see why. 🙂

It was a very easy experience. I went in the city office, met with John and the other folks that work there…very friendly! After taking our trip to the lots, I decided where I wanted to put my house, showed him my tiny house building plans/picture of tiny house and went over the codes. We then filled out the paperwork, all of 5 minutes, and I had my permit (free of charge). The folks in Spur and Dickens County, along with the others that are already here help you, anyway they can. I feel like I belong, and again, I’ve only visited twice.

I will be moving to town, with home in tow, by the first week in August. I literally can not wait. I am a college professor and will be working/teaching on-line. As a sociologist, I find this new adventure intriguing from a social aspect? How will Spur adjust to change? How will the newcomers begin to fit in, assimilate? Is this the beginning or a rural renewal? Time will tell; in the meantime, I look forward to simply calling Spur, …..HoMe;)

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Tiny Houses, Then & Now

So, why do I begin by titling my ramblings as Tiny House, then & now? In short, we humans want to simplify things to oblivion, or to complicate them to the same point. In this case, it’s simplification. The real story is that “tiny houses” have been the norm since man first put a few sticks and maybe a palm frond over paired rocks and huddled beneath them for shelter, but in the wilds of the Texas Panhandle where trees were scarce, labor even more so, and capital almost non-existent, the first settlers were pretty much forced to keep square footage to a minimum. So, from my decidedly narcissistic perspective, the homes I knew as a child are Tiny Houses, then.

Tiny houses were a fixture of my youth. Ours had two rooms. Four kids. A mama and a daddy. Numerous pets. Running water, especially when it rained. A trail to the outhouse. A thundermug for the little ones to avoid chaperoned trips to the outhouse during the wee hours of the morning. And vision. While the vision varied as a multiple of the occupants, the undying and unyielding heart of being a pioneer was a vision of individualism accomplished. Those who were content to share the vision of factory jobs, security, row houses and white picket fences stayed behind in the cities. But those who dreamed of seeing their vision become a reality went “out West”.

I don’t remember thinking of it as a tiny house, though. What I remember was home. No, most emphatically not a house, but a home filled with love. A home filled with the promise of future. A home where laughter could be heard. Where cries echoed from the walls after a skinned knee or some other mishap.

As I’ve grown from a wee brat to an admittedly much larger one (ask my 90 year old Mom… she’s quite adamant that I’ve managed to prevent more than a smidgeon of loss of the brat part), I’ve managed to live in a lot of abodes. And had the pleasure of calling many of them home, some a house, and even a few that were mere shelters. What is the difference that elicited such a varied reaction to the places I dwelled over the years? Recently I’ve come to reappraise what a home, tiny or otherwise means to the occupants.

My hometown of Spur, Texas has the unique opportunity to call itself the first “tiny house” friendly town. A place that is rapidly becoming a Mecca of the tiny house movement. A movement filled with the same spirits that populated the prairies of West Texas in the latter part of the 19th century, and the first half of the 20th. As a youth, surrounded by a dwindling population of real, old-time cowboys and hang-tough farmers beating the last bastion of the old West into submission I was impressed by the pure independent integrity of these extraordinary denizens of my home. The powerful, indomitable will of these pillars of my community early on helped me to realize that self, the core of one’s identity, could be the only tattered relic that survived the day-to-day struggles of what seemed to be a hostile world. Somewhere along the way, I noticed that in a land of cookie cutter houses, assembly line jobs, “fitting in” and not making waves, I realized I had grown up with a wild assemblage of misfits. In today’s world, every single person in the rural communities out here were oddballs. That individualism has stayed. And as a combined force, virtually nothing could ultimately defeat the community created by these individuals.

Which introduces the second part of what was important about the congregation of houses. Tiny houses mostly, simply by default of situation. I don’t ever remember folks talking about their houses being tiny. Sometimes there might be a reference to the “little house by the creek”, or some such, but it really wasn’t as much about size as just a descriptive. In a world where anything could happen, where it seemed the land and the weather were in cohorts to get you, the necessity of relying on neighbors was a simple fact of life. As yesterday segues into today, the need for sharing labor, equipment, time, food — and probably most importantly comradery, the lines blend to indistinguishability between then and now. As from time immemorial, it’s the spirit within the dwelling, the unquenchable pioneering spirit that always forces the few to reach for the stars. It’s never been the masses, but the few who make real change. Those pioneers are in perpetual search of the place to transform those dreams into reality. “Go West, young man…” was once a popular phrase encouraging people to go and make it happen… 

I’ve had the great pleasure of meeting and learning the stories of many in the tiny house movement recently. I’ve listened to a litany of reasons for the attraction to tiny houses. And I can’t refute a single one. However, I do ask myself why so many individuals are following the same lead. Ultimately, I don’t see the tiny houses as anything other than a tool, or a step, in the road for that small segment of humanity that is drawn irrevocably to express their unique individuality without losing their self while drawing on the community to fulfill those powerful visions.

Welcome to the Old West, my friends. A place filled with small communities of rugged individuals, all oddballs who welcome more like minded creatures to their midst. Here in Spur, we’re like everywhere in the old West, a little slow to let you into our inner circle, not from dislike, but simply from old wisdom. Come join us, give us the opportunity to know you… and we’ll become that community that makes it possible for you to be your best. Then we’ll fight for your right to be that awesome you in your vision… and expect the same in return.

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Tiny House Expedition Visits Spur

Alexis and Christian of  Tiny House Expedition came into town this week after traveling 14,000 miles on their journey to document exciting developments in the tiny house movement across the country and Canada!

We slowed them down just enough to  get them to eat and tell us their story.

C&A

They are the filmmaker duo behind Tiny House Expedition, a documentary and community outreach project that seeks to inspire folks to think big and build small as a means to provide more sustainable, quality housing & more connected communities. Alexis and Christian are creating an educational documentary, Living Tiny Legally, featuring case studies of how a handful of cities from all over the country are making legal tiny housing a reality, like Spur. They are also creating a documentary series on the tiny house movement with an emphasis on the dynamic people and community projects that creatively use tiny housing to meet the needs of the community, again like Spur.

“We are smitten with Spur, and it’s pioneering spirit. It’s small town full of big possibilities for tiny house people seeking a truly affordable, simpler way of life within a tight-knit community. This is a town not be underestimated.” exclaimed Alexis.

Alexis and Christian’s travels began in North Carolina, where they built their tiny house on wheels. They have another year of travel ahead, and have promised to return to Spur. It’s even rumored that they might buy a lot here…Stay tuned!  You can now follow their expedition across the US and Canada on our new page Trails page. Learn more about their journey with purpose on their website, http://www.tinyhouseexpedition.com, and follow their adventures on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Periscope and YouTube.

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New Meetup Group established

Welcome all!

We have established a meetup group for anyone, and everyone to come socialize and discuss what has happened, what is happening, and what is going to happen in our great little city.

We are also looking for input on doing organized, and scheduled tours to include lunch, and the movable feast.

Please join our group and any of our events at www.meetup.com

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Correspondence that Explains some recent Questions about the New Ordinance

On Apr 25, 2016, at 4:30 PM, Denise Rosner <dee1311@aol.com> wrote:

Hi David the Painter!

This is Denise and I live in my tiny blue house, the first built by a local builder, here in Spur. I had control of Spurfreedom.org until Benjamin took over when I got sick a few months ago. I’ve seen your unfavorable comments about the new permits here in Spur on a couple of different sites so I’m very happy that you are now asking some questions. I see that it seems that things have become complicated here in Spur regarding tiny houses but that’s simply not the case.

Conor was never involved other than to be the first tiny houser here. He did write a full account of his experience in getting here and still enjoys living here although he has stopped enjoying the thousands of people driving by his house ;).
Benjamin was only interested in having ‘alternative’ tiny houses here in Spur. As far as I know, he is still fighting City Hall to that end but in the meantime he has purchased land right outside the Spur city limits where he can indeed build his rammed earth home that he wants. These alternative homes, such as Benjamin’s might be welcome at some future date but for now traditionally built homes, container homes and THOW with wheels removed, are still very welcome.

You do not need a Variance unless you’re building in certain residential areas. Almost all of the areas where tiny houses now exist and where land is available, are not in those areas.
All size homes need permitting and inspections. 900 square feet is only mentioned in the ordinance to state what is considered Tiny.

John Schmidt is the Code Compliance officer at (806) 271-3316 and he issues the permits. You can call him about any code questions directly. The bottom line is that the City only wants to make sure that your house is safely built. John will make unofficial visits (inspections) throughout your build to make sure of this. He will inspect the foundation, plumbing, electrical, etc. I wish this was in effect before my build. I, as well as 2 other tiny housers, had awful experiences because of not having any plans for our houses and they are only looking out for us as well as making sure that these dwellings are not projectiles that will harm anything or anyone in a tornado.

After supplying John with a filled out Application and an approved set of plans, he will issue you a Permit, free of charge, right away. You may do this as you wait for your land purchase bid to be approved. That takes over a month as the Councils only meet once a month and there are 3 separate meetings – the County Commissioners meet on the 2nd Monday of the month, Spur City Council meets on the 3rd Tuesday of the month and Spur ISD meets on the 4th Monday of the month. You will hear that your bid was approved by the second day after the third meeting that had your bid on their agenda.

Yeah, sorry about the local realtor – she really wants nothing to do with the Tiny House movement.

I hope I answered most of your questions!

Sincerely,
Denise Rosner

On Apr 25, 2016, at 12:34 PM, David wrote:

I am trying to decide if Spur is still a viable option for my new winter home. I believe neither Conor nor Benjamin are any longer involved so I am not sure who I should ask.

I understand that anything under 900 square feet requires a variance, permits and inspections. So when does the city council meet and do they just consider variances or grant them on the spot? Also who grants permits and how long does take? And if you could point me to the codes that must be adhered to, that would be great. I have been a builder for years so unfortunately I understand the red tape involved. My intention was to build from the ground up as I can do it much cheaper than a house on wheels but that might be easier as it would likely bypass some inspections. I ask all of these questions because I need to determine if I can go, choose a lot, get a variance, purchase said lot after a variance is granted, get a permit and get work started on a foundation in a short amount of time. I do buy properties sight unseen but never one that requires a variance. A major portion of the build I would handle from Wisconsin and come to Spur or wherever to do some of the work saving me money. I routinely buy and or renovate properties from afar so it’s no big deal for me.

I did talk to real estate agent there in Spur a few weeks ago trying to get some questions answered but she was unaware that the City Of Spur had ordinances regarding buildings of under 900 square feet so I saw no need to ask her more.

Thanks for you answers or pointing me in the right direction.

iDAVID The Painter

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