Putting the hurt on yurts
Vail, CO Colorado
GLENWOOD SPRINGS ” Ron Lloyd says he has no interest in spending a winter living in a yurt.
“It is a tent, and it gets cold in the winter,” he said.
But the type of circular shelter that long has sheltered herdsmen on the steppes of central Asia seemed the perfect place for him, his wife Michelle and their children to live during the warmer months while he builds his home outside Carbondale.
Garfield County officials have other ideas, however. The county’s Building and Planning Department decided that yurts, which typically consist of a wooden frame covered by heavy fabric, shouldn’t be used as dwellings because they fail to meet many provisions of the county’s building code. Recently, Garfield County commissioners voted 2-1 to back that conclusion.
That could prove problematic for Lloyd. County building official Andy Schwaller said the county sent the Lloyds a letter in March saying they were out of compliance with the building code. County commissioners instructed Schwaller to hold off on pursuing enforcement until he could research the issue and seek their direction.
Lloyd hopes his family can continue with their living arrangement until he finishes his house, which he expects to happen within a few months. He says another neighbor already was using a yurt before he put his up, and the county didn’t make an issue of it.
He also contends that he checked with someone in the building department before installing his and was told then it wouldn’t be a problem.
“If they want to get ugly then I guess that’s what they’re going to do, but you know what, I did the right thing and I didn’t try to hide it,” he said.
Schwaller said Lloyd’s neighbor also was using a yurt to live in while building a permanent home, but since has sold it.
Lloyd thinks county officials are being closed-minded toward the dwellings.
“They’re a neat structure, and they shouldn’t just say absolutely ‘no,'” he said.
For Schwaller, the matter comes down to public health and safety. Building codes address things such as structural strength, sanitation, light and ventilation, energy conservation and fire safety. Structures such as yurts and teepees come up short in many areas of the building code, he believes.
“To try to change the code to fit the yurt or the teepee really isn’t the good way to go. The yurt or teepee really must upgrade to match the code,” he told county commissioners before they made their decision.
Dan Kigar, owner of the Colorado Yurt Co., based in Montrose, said his company has worked with numerous counties to upgrade the structures as needed to meet things such as insulation requirements. He said yurts also comply with flame-retardant standards and are engineered to stand up to wind and snow loads.
He and Lloyd noted that Colorado provides rental yurts at several state parks. “The state has obviously accepted the building for their purposes,” Kigar said.
Schwaller said he checked with Pitkin, Eagle, Summit and Gunnison counties and none of them allows yurts as dwellings beyond limited use.
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