Veteran Taken To Court By City For Living Off-The-Grid Unsafely, Officials Say
A military veteran is being taken to court by the city of Huntsville, Ala., for code violations stemming from his off-the-grid lifestyle.
The city’s justification for the lawsuit is that 27-year-old Tyler Truitt’s property, without city utilities, must be unsafe, WAFF48 reports. Truitt and his girlfriend Soraya Hamar live on their own two acres of property within city bounds and are completely self-sustaining, using solar panels and rainwater collectors. He constructed the utilities himself.
But officials think that his property should be classified as a trailer and have stated that if he doesn’t vacate the premises, trouble will soon follow. Trailers are not permitted within city limits.
“They came and they condemned our house and told us if we stayed here we’d be arrested for trespassing on our own property, and the reason why is, they said, it was unsafe living conditions because we don’t have city utilities hooked up,” Truitt, a Marine Corps Veteran, told WAFF48.
Truitt won’t abandon his land unless dragged off by local police, saying that he just wants to exercise the freedoms he swore under oath to protect as a member of the military.
“You have to stand up for what you believe in,” he said. “They could come out here today if they wanted to and take us to jail for trespassing, if that’s what they want to call it… that’d be fine with me. I’ll still come back the next day and the next day and the next day because it’s my home and because I live here. Where else am I supposed to go really?”
The city has a different story. According Kelly Schrimsher, communications director for Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle, there simply is no eviction lawsuit. Instead, Truitt has received two citations over the past nine months, the first of which occurred on March 27 for living in a trailer. City officials told Truitt that he could apply for a zoning variance, but he declined and went to court instead, where he lost on May 20 and is currently appealing. The city issued a second citation on May 12, arguing that his structure is unsafe because of sanitation, sewer and other issues with utilities.
Truitt says that the regulation against trailers is discriminatory and unconstitutional. His next court date is on July 29.
“It’s there for property protection. Adjoining property owners like protection and some homeowners might consider a trailer a nuisance,” Jim McGuffey, Director of Planning, told WMC5.
The city is maintaining that connection to a treatment facility is a necessity. “The absence of a connection to a sanitary sewer system (whether a septic system or sanitary sewer outfall line connected, ultimately, to a treatment facility, is not only a health and safety issue for the occupants, it’s a health and safety issue for others who may live around him/her,” Schrimsher added. “There are both benefits to be obtained, and compromises to be made, when people choose to live in an urban community.”
For rainwater collection, Truitt uses a 550-gallon plastic tank, and for sanitation installed a composting toilet. He also uses solar panels. Truitt’s battle with the city has attracted the public eye. Some, however, think that the case is courting undue controversy and attention.
“Had Mr. Truitt not had the word “veteran” associated with his name, there would have been no media attention, and, frankly, if the City is wrong (and I do not believe we have acted unjustly), we would be wrong regardless of whether Mr. Truitt was a veteran or not,” Peter Joffrion, Huntsville City Attorney, told TheDCNF.
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