The idea of living “off the grid”—that is, living entirely off the land without any connections to public utilities—is often a source of controversy. Zoning and land use laws often forbid individuals from using their own property as they see fit. On one hand, it's said that these laws are necessary to ensure uniform property upkeep, and to keep neighborhoods clean and safe. On the other hand, some argue that these regulations infringe upon the rights of land owners to do as they wish, especially if their actions harm no one.
Over the course of the last year, a man named Tyler Truitt has been fighting the city of Huntsville, Alabama regarding this very topic. Tyler, a United States Marine Corps combat veteran, purchased a plot of land in a rural portion of Huntsville in 2014. Shortly afterward, he placed a trailer on the land. However, rather than connecting to local utilities, Tyler set up solar panels for electricity, and began collecting and filtering rainwater for household use. He and his girlfriend even compost their own waste.
However, in March 2015, Tyler's neighbor filed a complaint with the city, causing the Huntsville Zoning Division to investigate. It was found that Tyler's property was not zoned for trailers, which are only allowed within trailer parks in Huntsville. Tyler contests that his trailer is not visible from any other property or public roadway, but the home was condemned, and an eviction notice was issued nonetheless.
On top of the controversy over the trailer, the city of Huntsville claims Tyler's solar, water, and composting system violate building and/or health ordinances. In a letter to a local news outlet, the Mayor of Huntsville wrote, “There is nothing illegal about living “off the grid,” provided interested citizens go through proper channels. We encourage green environmental living, and our departments stand ready and willing to guide citizens through the appropriate permitting process.”
Truitt said he tried to get the appropriate permits, but was denied the chance to even fill out applications, since his home is classified as a trailer. “We had intended to petition for a variant. Why should a citizen be forced to apply for a variant in order to comply with an ordinance that was unconstitutional to begin with?,” Truitt told WAAY 31, a local ABC news outlet.
As of this week, Tyler has already lost an appeal to keep his home, and an appellate court upheld the ruling that he has 14 days to remove his trailer from the land. However, he insists he will stand his ground, and will not be prevented from living off the grid on the land he owns.
“How much is this fight worth to them? I know what it means to me. It's my home, it's everything and I'm not moving the house,” said Truitt.
For further updates on Tyler's situation, you can visit his Facebook page, Stand with Tyler for Liberty.