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Another Court In The U.S. Has Ruled Off-Grid Living Illegal

Tyler Truitt. Image source: AL.com

Tyler Truitt. Image source: AL.com

Green living and sustainable energy are encouraged in Huntsville, Alabama, just as long as you do not practice such an off-grid life within the city limits.

Marine veteran Tyler Truitt discovered that the hard way when the city condemned his off-grid retreat because he chose not to use city utilities – and a judge subsequently upheld the city’s decision.

This year he installed solar panels in the front yard, a composting toilet in the trailer, and placed a 550-gallon plastic tank outside his trailer home to catch rainwater. But the city said he can’t live that way, and it has placed a yellow “unsafe building” sticker on the outside of the trailer.

The home sits on two acres of land at the end of a road.

A municipal judge found Truitt guilty of zoning violations, although he has appealed to the Circuit Court and wants a jury trial. The case has similarities to the one involving Robin Speronis, the Florida woman whose city told her she couldn’t live off grid.

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“They’re taking a big option away from families that can’t afford to build a fancy house,” Truitt said of Huntsville’s Community Development Department. Huntsville’s Code of Ordinances also bans mobile homes outside of trailer parks.

“I have looked and didn’t see anything (in Huntsville’s Code of Ordinances) which says I’m not allowed to use off-grid utilities,” Truitt told Al.com, which broke the story. “They claim that it’s not sufficient to use off-grid utilities because it’s not a ‘permanent’ source of power.”

Truitt, 27, served in the Marines before working at Redstone Arsenal, an Army base in Huntsville.

Off-Grid Living a Threat to Public Safety?

The city gave Truitt until June 1 to bring the trailer up to code, but he and his girlfriend aren’t moving, and he’s chosen to take the city to court.

City officials defended the actions.

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“The purpose behind these requirements is public safety,” Kelly Schrimsher, the communications director for Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle, told Al.com. “This includes ensuring that occupants of a residential dwelling have safe, potable, running water and electricity, particularly in the wintertime. The city has posted the property as ‘Unsafe’ for this reason.”

Solar panels in the front yard. Image source: AL.com

Solar panels in the front yard. Image source: AL.com

The city of Huntsville owns Huntsville Utilities.

“We encourage green environmental living, and we request interested citizens go through proper channels,” Schrimsher said. “Our departments stand ready and willing to guide them through the appropriate permitting process.”

‘We’re Not Bothering Anyone’

Truitt’s real crime may be choosing to live within the city limits, Huntsville Community Development Director Ken Benion said. Benion told Al.com that Truitt’s home likely would be permissible in rural areas in the county.

“But in the city, it just doesn’t fly,” Benion said.

Truitt isn’t giving up.

“We’re not bothering anyone,” Truitt said. “I just wanted to have something that would be debt-free, so that if I chose to go to school full-time I wouldn’t have to worry about any bills.”

The couple uses a propane water heater and cooks on a propane grill and in the microwave, the website reported.

Truitt believes it’s a matter of civil disobedience to stay in the trailer.

“Would the city rather us be homeless than live in a house that they don’t like?” Truitt asked. “At what point is someone going to stand up and say, ‘This doesn’t make any sense, this is wrong.'”

Do you believe he should be allowed to live off-grid in the city? Share your thoughts in the section below:

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33 comments

  1. I think this is a matter of constitiution law ans should be pursued in the supreme court as it intereferes with life liberty and the pursuit of happiness

    • Actually it falls under the Ninth Amendment which makes clear that we have other protected Natural Rights that are not listed but are still Protected FROM those who serve wtihin our government.

      9th Amendment: “The enumeration (listing) in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.”

      We as a people lived off grid hundreds of years before there were governments. If there was nothing that was harming another or another’s property then it is NOT under the proper role of our Constitutional Republic.

  2. All these stupid laws, they need to leave people alone. What I found funny actually was the statement,

    “The purpose behind these requirements is public safety,” Kelly Schrimsher, the communications director for Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle, told Al.com. “This includes ensuring that occupants of a residential dwelling have safe, potable, running water and electricity, particularly in the wintertime. The city has posted the property as ‘Unsafe’ for this reason.”

    So does that mean that the utilities are breaking the law if they shut you off in the winter because you cant pay? Also what kind of winter does Alabama.. sure cant be like we get in upper Pa or in New York. Just another excuse to try to control people!

    • The city wants to ensure you have safe running water and electricity. They want you to have it so badly that they force you to give them money in order to provide it to you.

      • Or pay high fees for permits that you should not have to have to live free. Just because others would not care to live that way doesn’t mean he should not be able to! Another classic example of Gov’t. overreach. Local Gov’ts. want their cut of the money he is saving by not hooking up to their utilities! When the grid goes down and it will, let them ask you how to live like you, then tell them to STICK IT!

    • well put

  3. The city owns the utilities. Need I say more?
    .
    In spite of what the city says, it’s not about health or safety. It’s about money. If he gets away with this, other people will do the same thing. And the city loses all of that money.
    .
    As with so many things; follow the money.

  4. These are the type of people who will be the leaders if the grid goes down.What happened to your home is your castle.

  5. It would be nice if they would not settle with the city and take this through the system to create a presidence for case law for future situations like this.

  6. I live outside Huntsville – in the neighboring county.

    This story is a tad bit more complicated that what is circulating the media. Still doesn’t change the underlying issue of the rights of the individual to live as they want to, but it is worth noting.

    The City of Huntsville has an ordinance that covers mobile homes – the specifically states that mobile homes are only allowed on property that is specifically zoned for them.

    The first “mistake” made was the mobile home was placed on land that is not zoned for mobile homes. I am not arguing that it is right for the city to make that restriction, but it is a law on their books. So the issue they originally went after him on was an illegally placed mobile home – basically charged him with a zone violation. Once they started with that they just started piling things on.

    But yes – the city does own the utilities and that is somewhat common around here. I live in a rural area across the river from Huntsville and we have whats referred to as a cooperative electric company that serves us. Basically they buy power from TVA and re-sell it to consumers.

    There are plenty of areas outside the city limits of Huntsville that he could have set up on and likely not run into anywhere near the trouble he has been having.

    All that said, I want to make it clear that I do not support the city, state, or federal government restricting the individual liberties of citizens and creating a cash flow monopoly on their own utility grid. We are a free people and if I choose to live without electricity or water hookups, then I should be free to do that as long as I desire without penalty from a government henchman bent of taking cash from my pockets.

    I just wanted to make it clear that this fight didn’t begin with the off-grid issue. It started with the house trailer being placed on a lot that wasn’t zoned for it.

    • true, plus how about some empathy for his neighbors who bought and built according to the zoning only to have a mobile home dragged into their midst. To add insult to injury, it is lived in like a camp up in the mountains. I am all for the little guy against city hall meme, but he should fight this no more and either go to where he is zoned for a mobile home or move outside the city limits. I have lived within an HOA neighborhood. I chose the country with enough acreage to buffer any other undesirable dwellings. I like chickens and goats, but NOT inside the city limits. The main issue is to respect the choices of others if you want yours respected. And the law is not normally a matter of debate. Does the city grant him an exemption thereby dropping property values immediately as his neighbors sell to escape?

  7. All the city is doing is “interpreting the codes and ordinances” the way they see fit. If you read them …it is not as plain as “someone cant live off the grid” . There is actually nothing that specifically addresses this topic. Same with the woman in Florida, They are citing ICC … in which there is language that specifically addresses this topic there either. If the officials are going to push this, and just so “dumb people like me” can fully understand and find the information to educate myself….please cite the exact Code and Article number that is being referenced to justify their actions.

  8. Sadly you are all wrong. Its about a precedent. The municipality was forced to define a safe building for habitation over 100 years ago. The definition required running water and functional sanitary sewers. This is the same in virtually EVERY city limits in the nation. And when you try to buck the system you run into issues. Were these people living outside the city’s scope of power, and ran into this, then there would be a problem of overreach. Were it just the electricity, they would be able to take it to court and win, due to the federal ruling that requires utilities to purchase excess electricity from those with alternative power sources. All they would have to do is cite unlawful intervention of the municipality requiring them sell their product to a specific customer, namely that specific electric utility. Th Municipal Code requires they HAVE electricity, not who they get it from.

  9. What strikes me is the fact that city officials claims they want to be sure this family has power and water at all time. But given that private companies cut your access if you don’t pay, I don’t understand the city’s position.

    • In some cities and Detroit in particular, the city has seized someone’s home for not being able to pay the utilities, but will also seize it if the home owner turns them off because they can’t pay. Water rates skyrocketed and that was used to kick people out of homes that were completely paid for and had been in their families for generations.

      It is always best to live in a rural area outside a city limit if you want to live free. But some counties and states are making even that difficult. Choose wisely when you decide where to live – especially if you are buying.

  10. Localities make all sorts of dumb laws. Fortunately, it’s very easy to move into a new one.

    You would expect a little more freedom in a place like Huntsville though. But from the other commenter, it sounds like he picked the fight by going against the zoning regs. Now the ego on the other side of the desk is going to make him pay.

  11. yea I’m pretty sure that they would just love to charge people to breath also they are just money hungry no good people that are really dumb and they probably wouldn’t even make it if we were to go back in time and have to live off the land they would have no idea how to survive. It’s actually kinda sad that there is people like that with no brains I would like to consider them as cityidiots just my thoughts

  12. Mr Truitt They make porta poddies use one because they are legal. Put a sign on your house that says private property if they put up another sign sue them. Put a restraing order against them and protection of oerder. Look up the RICO statute.. They are racketeers trying to extort money.
    Your going to loose a lot of money by fighting the city. Instead of doing that find a small piece of land and sell your hope from the city. Conform to their laws until then.
    If you want to fight call them every day with questions and annoy the crap out of them. A friend of mine
    called them 3 times a day asking is it ok to have a porta poddy at my house and questions about the
    sewer, etc..

  13. It is sad that governments want their people to be so dependent that they aren’t even allowed to live on their own in the way that they want to when it causes no harm to the city and only helps the environment. Hopefully they don’t get too strict. – Emme @ Green Global Travel

  14. Maybe he should look into having his property converted to an allodial deed. This is when the property owner reclaims the the land patients granted by the king of England to the original owner. This makes his property owned by him and not the city or county and free of property tax and outside the jusidiction or the city or county.

    Just do an internet search for Allodial property ownership.

    Internet also mentions un-record your property, or have your real property re-classified as private. You might want to research these topics.

  15. Own your home?

    Maybe not. Zoning laws and property taxes among other ordinances, etc prove you only “rent” your home.

  16. This is further proof that the cities are death zones. When a disaster happens, then you can not have any utilities at all, because the government is going to “manage” said disaster. I see propaganda in the news saying “70 percent of everyone will live in cities by 2050″….all about control.

  17. Courious…is anyone following up on this story? Mr Truitt was to appear in court today (July 29 2015) on this matter. Wondering what happen since no local news stations here in North Al are reporting on it.

  18. The laws and our governments are getting ridiculously out of control. The funny thing is the government was created by the people for the people. LOL! It’s obvious that people all over this country are getting sick and tired of there games. So many Americans are just deciding to leave the country to avoid the bullshit. But if you can believe it they are also trying to stop people from doing that as well. America is in decline. They know it and are trying to maintain control by creating more stupid laws. On another note, Nicolai Tesla created free green energy back in the 40’s that he wanted to give to everybody but the government stepped in and took all of his technology from him because it couldn’t be metered and the powers that be wanted to maintain control of the electoral grid and your money. On one hand they want us to be green and on the other hand they try to stop us from doing something good for the environment. Shaking my head!!! When injustice becomes law, resistance becomes duty.

  19. The only crime I see being committed here is by the state’s county this was committed in. The city of Huntsville may own the electric company, but not the cities counsel, or it’s mayor, or it’s zoning board. We, the citizens of the US are the government. Those people who we elect work for us. Not vis-versa. Regardless, owning a monopoly doesn’t give you the right to force someone to purchase your product. In fact it’s a threat” buy or else freeze on the street.” You have running water and heat you’re fine Who is to tell you that you have to have light too? Imagine walking into walmart and instead of the greeter saying “welcome to walmart’ they said, “buy something or we’ll break your legs!” Ol’ Rocco standing there with a baseball bat. This is no different. It’s the same grounds as solar. How, in any reasonable argument could they justify you not being able to harvest solar energy? This country is a democracy and that mean decisions are made by vote. I vote no to the city of Huntsville telling you you have to buy electricity (which is part yours anyway) Anyone else vote NO?

    • I live in Huntsville the city or utilities doesn’t seem to care about all the homeless tents and buildings built and erected on city property. What’s the difference?

  20. I think the Govt. should patent the Sun, Oxygen and Thought. Then they will have total control.

  21. “…ensuring that occupants of a residential dwelling have safe, potable, running water…” uh, like Flint, Michigan’s version of safe, potable, running water?

    The EPA says the limit of lead in public water is 15 parts per billion… at times the water coming out of the tap in Flint, Michigan registered…wait…WHAT?!… 13,200 parts per billion (13.2 ppm), according to Scientific American.

    This crime was not only covered up by the government, it was allowed to continue for many months without anyone bothering to warn the public. THIS IS WHY people want to live “off the grid”. The “grid” is not to be trusted.

  22. I don’t think the city should have the right to tell you what you can or cannot do on your own property. Especially a soldier that has fought for our freedom and their freedom as well. If they have a problem with the way he’s living his life then they should put their boots on and grab a gun and stand on the front line like that mad did for us. Then maybe if they come home afterwards I’ll listen to what they have to say, because I cannot hear or respect someone who sits in an office and has never stood and defended this country like this man did. The rest is just b***s*** greed.

  23. The government has made it impossible for people to have the life my parents had. People are seeking alternatives to a healthy and happy home of their own. I own a home now, but it has been my dream to sell that home and go off the grid. I just want some peace of mind from a government that does nothing but abuse and manipulate its people. We are a worker state and nothing more. These laws are against our Constitutional right to happiness and as mentioned above the 9th amendment.

    “I live in Huntsville the city or utilities doesn’t seem to care about all the homeless tents and buildings built and erected on city property. What’s the difference?”
    There isnt any and I hope this guy and his wife won.

  24. “The city of Huntsville owns Huntsville Utilities.”

    There it is… it isn’t about safety. It’s about MONEY!

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