City responds to couple trying to live 'off-the-grid'

Published: Jun. 15, 2015 at 9:48 PM CDT|Updated: Jul. 13, 2015 at 9:48 PM CDT
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Tyler Truitt said he didn't think his decision to live self-sufficiently would impact anyone...
Tyler Truitt said he didn't think his decision to live self-sufficiently would impact anyone else. (Source: WAFF)

HUNTSVILLE, AL (WAFF) - The City of Huntsville responds to questions about a Huntsville couple trying to live self-sufficiently.

People across the country want to help this couple since we broke this story Friday.

While the couple says they are living "off-the-grid," the city says they violate ordinance codes.

Since our original story aired, we have received dozens of messages from people as far away as Alaska, asking how they could help Tyler Truitt.

We reached out to city leaders before that first story aired, but didn't hear back from them until Monday. They say rules are rules and they're standing by them.

Tyler Truitt didn't think his decision to live off the grid would impact anyone else.

He uses solar panels for heat and electricity, rainwater for drinking and bathing, and composting for sewer.

SLIDESHOW: Tour this off-the-grid home

"Who are we bothering, that's my biggest question," Truitt said, "Who are we hurting?"

Huntsville city leaders say Truitt is bothering them and needs to follow city ordinance or leave.

"Apparently he has chosen to live an alternative lifestyle and that's great, people can choose to live different ways but if you live in the city of Huntsville you do have to abide by our laws and ordinance," said Kelly Schrimsher, spokesperson for the Huntsville Mayor's Office.

She said those laws and ordinances state that say you cannot live in a trailer that's not in a designated trailer park.

"It's there for property protection. Adjoining property owners like protection and some homeowners might consider a trailer a nuisance," said Jim McGuffey, Director of Planning.

Truitt argues his house is not visible from the road.

"We're pretty much out of sight out of mind," he said.

Another ordinance says you can't live in an unsafe environment.

WEB: Huntsville city codes/ordinances

"It's about the health and public safety of our citizens, so you must have a sanitary sewer, you must have potable running water," Schrimsher said. "There are certain requirements that are there to protect our citizens through the winter."

Truitt has already made it through one winter living off the grid, and says the sun is all he needs.

"We've got things normal people have, we have a TV, a fridge, a microwave, stuff like that," he said.

Truitt is hopeful he can work this out with the city.

"I have every belief that we will be able to solve this in our favor," he said.

We asked city officials if it was illegal to live off the grid here.

At 5:15 p.m. Monday, we received an email that says it is not, but everyone must follow code:

"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. We have several residents in the City utilizing solar power and some are actually putting power back on the grid.

"The source of Mr. Truitt's utilities is not an issue. No resident is required to buy utilities from the city. Any property owner, however, is required to meet the building codes that are enforced across the city. The systems Mr. Truitt has attempted to put in do not meet any of the building codes, nor did Mr. Truitt apply for any permits as required by law. His sanitary situation further violates state health codes."

"I'm sure there are other areas and properties in the country that if you wanted to choose a different lifestyle you could do so," Schrimsher said.

All of this will play out in the courts. Truitt's next court appearance is July 29.

In the meantime, Truitt says that if you wish to help him, the best thing you can do is contact the city and voice your opinions about possibly changing the codes and ordinances.

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