City says Huntsville couple can’t live ‘off the grid’
A Huntsville man joined the military to fight for our rights, but now he says his own rights are being threatened.
Tyler Truitt and his girlfriend Soraya Hamar are currently living within city limits but without city utilities.
Huntsville officials said that’s not allowed. The city filed a lawsuit against Truitt and Hamar, calling their self-sufficient lifestyle unsafe.
The couple says they’d rather be arrested than leave their land.
“We live out here off the grid, 100 percent self-sustaining,” Truitt said. “So I basically made all my utilities: I have my solar panels, I have my rainwater collection and stuff.”
The city doesn’t see that as a good thing.
“They say our house is a trailer, which is not allowed in city limits,” Truitt said.
City officials also took issue with Truitt’s off-the-grid lifestyle.
“They came and they condemned our house and told us if we stayed here we’d be arrested for trespassing on our own property, and the reason why is, they said, it was unsafe living conditions because we don’t have city utilities hooked up,” Truitt explained.
The former military member says he just wants the freedoms he swore he’d protect.
“I took an oath that I would support and defend the constitution and the freedoms that entails, and I really feel like those are being trampled upon,” Truitt said.
Truitt is prepared to fight for his property. “You have to stand up for what you believe in. They could come out here today if they wanted to and take us to jail for trespassing if that’s what they want to call it and, you know, that’d be fine with me. I’ll still come back the next day and the next day and the next day because it’s my home and because I live here. Where else am I supposed to go really?”
We reached out to Huntsville Utilities and Huntsville City Attorney Peter Joffrion. So far, neither have responded.
City responds to couple trying to live ‘off-the-grid’
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.
“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.
“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.
Truitt provided contact information for city officials relevant to his case:
- Mayor Tommy Battle: (256) 427-5000
- Judge Sonny Rodenhauser: (256) 427-7810
- City attorney Peter Joffrion: (256) 427-5026
- City administrator: (256) 427-5009
- Community development director Ken Benion: (256) 427-5400
- Zoning administrator Jim McGuffey: (256) 564-8008
- City council member Richard Showers Sr.: Richard.email@example.com
- City council president Mark Russell: Mark.firstname.lastname@example.org
- City council member Jennie Robinson: Jennie.email@example.com
- City council member Bill Kling Jr.: firstname.lastname@example.org
- City council member Will Culver: Will.email@example.com