Off the Grid
November 1, 2018
In recent years, self-sufficiency and living off the land is becoming more and more popular. Now that relatively inexpensive photoelectric cells, wind generators, and composting toilets are becoming more readily available to people of modest incomes, it is becoming a lifestyle for increasing numbers of people.
In America, independence has been a treasured objective since its beginning. We fought two wars to become independent from Britain. We fought for individual liberty. And we fought to abolish slavery and other oppressive human actions.
Tyler Truitt is a 30 year old ex US Marine who strongly believes in independence. After his separation, he came to Huntsville, AL to establish his homestead and finish his degree at UAH. In 2014, he purchased a two acre lot at the end of Hood Road, brought in a mobile home, and set up his solar array, rainwater collectors, and other devices to begin his independent lifestyle. He and his girl friend, Soraya Hamar, worked to clean up and improve the place. About the first of January, 2015, they settled in to live in freedom and comfort.
About a month later, Tyler received a notice from the city that bluntly stated that he had seven days to move his house, “or else.” He called a lady from the city, and she said, “Well, you know, you’ve got to have the right permit.” But when he applied for a permit, the city refused, because it was a mobile home. “We won’t issue a permit.”
Before Tyler brought in the mobile home, he had looked at the zoning ordinance, and his property was zoned “Residential 2B.” It said nothing about mobile homes.
After extensive searching and hassling, Tyler was informed about ordinance 73.3.1, which was buried deep down in the miscellaneous section of the city code. It said that “all trailers” anywhere in the city had to be located in “an approved trailer park.”
Of course, neither Tyler nor the property’s previous owner was aware of this ordinance. Tyler called his city councilman, and he responded, “Well, that’s just the ordinance, and we enforce it.” He said the only way he could comply was to move his house.
Tyler recognized this tactic as blatant economic discrimination. “They don’t want low income families being able to own homes inside the city.”
Tyler was out of options at this point, so he just ignored the city’s demands.
Suddenly, on April 3rd, while still asleep, he heard his dogs barking at the door, wanting to go outside. He jumped up and opened the door. The dogs ran off to the side of the yard. Tyler knew something was wrong and ran after them. He saw two men—one with a gun. He pointed it at the dogs and then at Tyler. “Hey, what are you doing back here?” yelled Tyler.
The man waved the gun and yelled, “I’m the *** **** police. If you don’t call those dogs off, I’m gonna draw up on ‘em.”
About that time, Soraya came running out, and he pointed the gun at her. Tyler grabbed the dogs and said, “Hey, man, if you’re the police, where’s your uniform? Where’s your badge.” He growled, “I’m a CRO (Community Relations Officer). I don’t need to wear a uniform.”
The men handed Tyler a citation. But instead of leaving, they held Tyler and Soraya hostage, outside in the cold. “We’re going to detain you here, and we’re calling community development, and we’re gonna condemn this house. You two are leaving here today.”
After about 45 minutes, they came and placed a huge yellow placard onto the house that said “Unsafe Building. Do not occupy....” Then they said, “All right, the house is condemned. You have an hour to leave the property, or else you’ll be arrested.”
Lacking any other options, Tyler and Soraya remained in the house. Tyler spent the next seven months fruitlessly attempting to file an appeal. One of the city enforcers replied, “Well, I’m sure there are several shelters around town that’ll take you in.” In other words, “Yes, we’d just rather you be homeless on the street.”
On November 3, 2015, after losing his appeal, Circuit Judge Dennis O'Dell sentenced Tyler to 10 days in jail and fined him $250 plus court costs—totaling about $2000. He then released him without supervision and gave him two weeks to move his house.
Since then, so far, the city’s oppressions have subsided. On Facebook, Tyler wrote: “Since that time, we’ve been living peacefully on our property without interference from the city. Although threats were made to remove us and there was never an official resolution, I hope we can consider the matter resolved at this point. There is no currently pending legal action. We still have our house and our solar panels, and the sun is still shining.”
But Tyler can never forget the Nazi-like menace of the city’s code enforcers. “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,”
We must never forget that a person’s home—like his body—is sacrosanct. It is something that nobody, especially officials, should ever violate. It is protected by the United States and Alabama Constitutions, as well as natural law. Home invasions like this are vicious, heinous, unconscionable crimes—no less cruel than raping someone. They should never be tolerated. Tyler would be fully justified in suing the city for several million dollars for his trouble, constitutional and ethical violations, false imprisonment, lost wages, time, and mental anguish. Perhaps, someday, a lawsuit could set a precedent to put an end to all violations committed by officials.