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Rural dwelling pilot program extended

Nevada County supervisors Tuesday kept alive a pilot program to study the use of alternative building materials for owner-built rural housing.

Supervisors also modified a proposed wood stove ordinance and voted to set up a group to study a countywide fire plan.

The county’s limited-density, owner-built rural dwelling pilot program allows the use of alternative materials for guest homes, detached bedrooms and homes in rural areas occupied by relatives or the home builder.



The program is supposed to provide affordable housing by allowing people in rural areas to build simple, inexpensive homes for themselves using alternative building materials such as corn cobs, hay bales, even old tires, said Chamba Lane, a Nevada City-area member of the Family Housing Coalition, a loose-knit group of affordable-housing activists.

The coalition was one of the main proponents of the pilot program started in September 1999. Lane said Nevada County is one of three counties in the state to try the program (Mendocino and Humboldt counties are the others). Former Gov. Jerry Brown set up the alternative-building materials code years ago, said Lane.




Seven houses have been built in the county under the program, including one that used railroad cars.

Nevada County’s program was set to expire next month, along with a separate program allowing people to bring their homes into compliance with county building standards.

Supervisors voted to extend the programs 90 days to work out any problems.

One problem is that people who want to build the alternative structures have been told by lower-level county clerical staff that they can’t do it, despite the program, said Lane.

Although frustrated by phone calls he gets every month from people he says were misinformed by county staff, Lane was happy with the supervisors’ decision to extend programs.

The supervisors also discussed a wood stove and fireplace ordinance, which will be brought back for a first reading. It will be changed to allow one fireplace per new unit if the building has multiple units, instead of just one per building.


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