Big dreams in the tiny village of Big Valley

If we build it, will they come?
The tiny village of Big Valley is poised to break ground on a big idea – a tiny homes subdivision.
According to Big Valley CAO Michelle White, the idea began after they were unable to accommodate a request to put a tiny log cabin in one of their residential districts.
As similar calls from people wanting to build homes under 700 square feet continued to come in, Big Valley council decided to explore the tiny house possibilities.
Tiny houses have become a growing phenomenon as the idea of living in homes smaller than 1,000 square feet or even under the 500-square-foot mark, captures the imagination of ordinary people.
A major hurdle has always been finding a place to put them.
Written long before the modern day, tiny home movement took hold, existing land-use bylaws discourage building small.
Small houses are often seen by neighbours as ‘low class’ and many fear they would drive down property values.
Big Valley disagrees.
They plan to build something that’s small but still beautiful.
Council recently drafted an amendment to their municipal land-use bylaw to allow tiny homes of 650 square feet or less to be built in one subdivision.
The idea is straightforward: bring tiny houses together in one place to give unity to the area and a community-type feel.
“From what I understand this will be unique in the province of Alberta.” says White.
“And that’s where we are ahead of the curve,” noted Mayor Asaph Johnson, in a recent interview. “We’ve already had our first reading.”
Steadily gathering steam over the past decade, the tiny house movement is powered by people who want to pare down, get out of debt, consume less and enjoy a simpler lifestyle.
The suggestion that Big Valley’s subdivision would be for retirees is short-sighted.
“This is beyond the snow birds, beyond retirees, it is for people who want to downsize or those who see tiny homes as an affordable first step in the housing market.” stated Johnson.
The kinds of people who want to live in tiny houses are exactly the types of citizens the community needs to thrive.
“We would like to see this village grow, yet keep that small town, neighbourly feel.” Johnson explained
“You get the best of both worlds here; country living, yet only 30 to 45 minutes from city amenities.
Many people are moving back to nostalgia, remembering the days when it was safe to…just fill in the blank.
“That’s happening in towns like ours, and we are looking for new families to come and join us.
“More homeowners paying property taxes and utility bills, patronizing local businesses and enrolling their kids in the local school can only be a good thing for this community.”
This dreamed-of subdivision is a ‘field’ just waiting at the south edge of the village.
In 2010 the field was subdivided into large residential lots, but till now it has only been used for grazing horses.
If we build it, they will come.
In order to consider the development a realistic proposition, council originally agreed they would need three interested parties.
Since word got out, over a dozen people have put their names on the official waiting list. That’s over half of the 22 planned lots.
If the timing is right, and council believes it is, they could very well be sold out; then on to round two.
The Big Valley Tiny Homes subdivision was projected to be fully completed in 2018 but if they continue to roll along at the speed they’ve picked up, it could be done by the fall of 2017.
The village will hold a public hearing on April 13.
Destination of Alberta Prairie Railway tours and successfully hosting over 18,000 visitors every year, the “can do” spirit definitely lives in this village of 350.

Johnson states, “If we did not have unity in our council, this would not be flying.
Council is gung-ho for it, we’ve committed to doing it and we’re looking to get it done this year if possible.
I want to see the first building up before the end of 2017.”

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