Tiny house trend on the move in Southern Utah

Composite image, St. George News

ST. GEORGE – Tiny houses are a popular trend around the nation and Washington County is no exception.

“I don’t know why we have a minimum size home,” Washington County Commissioner Zachary Renstrom said before approving changes that affect home sizes at a regular commission meeting Tuesday. “If someone wants to live in a 200-square-foot home, I don’t know why we care.

The measure, approved by county officials, updates and clarifies subdivision ordinances governing tiny houses, recreational vehicles and agricultural animals.

Small houses 1,000 square feet or smaller are part of a movement towards simple living that includes very small dwellings. The concept inspired the reality TV show “Tiny House Nation” that premiered in 2014.

Read more: Perspectives: Tiny houses, how our stuff owns us

The county has had a lot of inquiries about tiny homes, county planner Scott Messel said, which was unexpected because lots in the unincorporated areas of the county are typically quite large.

“We removed the square-footage requirement for single-family dwellings,”  Messel said. The previous minimum size was 800 square feet. Home builders must still abide by the county building codes, he said.

According to county building codes, dwellings must have at least one habitable room that shall have not less than 120 square feet of gross floor area. Bathrooms don’t count into this total, but both a bathroom and kitchen are required.

Tiny houses are allowed in residential zones in the county as long as they are on a foundation and hooked up to utilities.

Tiny homes built to be mobile with an axle and wheels are now classified as park model recreational vehicles and are allowed as a conditional use in recreation grounds and facilities and campground projects. However they are not allowed on residential lots, Messel said.

The revised zoning ordinance, approved by the Washington County Commission Tuesday, amends and clarifies several zoning regulations.

The ordinance created a definition for private recreation grounds and makes the use permissible in some areas.

“We’ve also had quite a few requests in areas such as Kolob where we have commercial groups that want to come in and – whether it’s canyoneering or horseback riding – they want to take people on tours,” Messel said.

“They need to come in and get a business license for it,” he said, “but we didn’t have any way to check and make sure they had approval or the OK from property owners.”

The ordinance also created a definition and approval process for “tourist homes” – any establishment used for temporary rental, including bed-and-breakfasts.

Tourist homes are allowed in several zones: open space transition, agriculture, forest residential, seasonal forest residential, residential agriculture, residential estate, single-family residential and multi-family residential zones.

All tourist homes shall be required to register with the state, obtain a business license and complete the tourist home rental application.

A tourist home must have a local agent available by phone 24 hours a day and must abide by good neighbor practices which forbid loud music, unruly parties and parking on the street, among other requirements.

The ordinance adds campgrounds as a conditional use in several zones: open space transition, agriculture, forest residential and seasonal forest residential.

The ordinance clarifies the number of animals which may be kept in a residential zone. Animals are limited to one large animal for every 12,500 square feet of land, with a maximum of four. Large animals include horses, cattle or other animals in this category.

Under the revised ordinance, three medium animals equal one large animal. Medium animals include goats; sheep; and horses or ponies smaller than 36 inches at the withers.

Not more than eight poultry or rabbits or other small animals are allowed for every 12,500 square feet of area; and no more than 30 small animals on any lot.


No pigs or exotic animals are allowed in a residential zone with the exception of weaner pigs 6 months old or younger, which are raised for stock shows.

Ed. note: Clarified small animal limits.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2016, all rights reserved.



Free News Delivery by Email

Would you like to have the day's news stories delivered right to your inbox every evening? Enter your email below to start!


  • karensg July 22, 2016 at 10:01 am

    “Home builders must still abide by the county building codes, he said, but that minimum is under 300 square feet.”
    That statement is unclear to me. If there is still a minimum, what is it? Is 200 sq. ft. ok or not?

    • Paul Dail July 22, 2016 at 11:10 am

      Karen, thank you for bringing this to our attention, and I agree that it wasn’t very clear as stated. I contacted the Community Development office for clarification and was given the following information: According to county building codes, dwellings must have at least one habitable room that shall have not less than 120 square feet of gross floor area. Bathrooms don’t count into this total, but both a bathroom and kitchen are mandatory.

      That information has been added to the article. Thanks again for reading – and being an active part of – St. George News.

      Paul Dail
      Editor, Reporter

  • Aaron_Pugh July 22, 2016 at 10:50 am

    Yes… A popular trend… and not a sad necessity.

  • karensg July 22, 2016 at 1:11 pm

    Thank you, Paul, for following through by seeking out that information and reporting back on it. Those details are very interesting!
    Thanks again!

    • Paul Dail July 22, 2016 at 1:50 pm

      My pleasure. I also thought it was interesting (as is the whole tiny house movement itself).

      Paul Dail
      Editor, Reporter

  • Proud Rebel July 22, 2016 at 3:45 pm

    My first thought with seeing this was, “well, the land developers are going to love it, because they can divide land into much smaller lots, therefore, making much more money on their developments.” That was my first thought. And my second. And my third.
    There are already tiny houses out there, called “Park Models” but they have been pretty much relegated to mobile home/trailer parks.

  • Tiny Homes November 9, 2017 at 2:55 am

    Thank you Julie, very nice and encouraging article, I support the small house movement and we need more stories like this. You can write so much more on this matter and I’m sure the Southern Utah community will be very interested in reading about it. More people should know about this way of living, this is not about making a compromise this is about respecting the nature and each other.
    Thank you again and I cant wait to read more about tiny homes.
    Here we started a small project to inform people about the small house movement, we are waiting for more recruits 🙂 https://www.thesetinyhomes.com/.
    God bless.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.