CHIPPEWA FALLS — A church on the West Hill of Chippewa Falls is seeking permission to place up to two tiny homes on its property, bringing the total of the houses for the homeless in the city to six, along with two in Lake Hallie.
Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church, at 1300 Mansfield St., presented its request to the city’s Plan Commission on Monday.
“This is similar to the other tiny home permits we’ve seen,” city engineer Rick Rubenzer said.
Mike Cohoon, pastor at Landmark Christian Church in Lake Hallie, has led the effort to place the tiny homes in the community. He said officials at Our Saviour’s contacted him about being involved.
“They had meetings with their congregation, and their congregation approved it,” Cohoon told the Plan Commission.
Cohoon said church leaders also spoke to homeowners near the building.
“We have just under 2,000 nights of service with the six houses we have. We have three houses being built right now,” Cohoon said. “We’ve had 17 different people live in them. A majority of them are now living in permanent housing.”
The commission unanimously approved the proposal and sent it to the Chippewa Falls City Council; a public hearing on the special use permit will be Tuesday, Sept. 4.
Plan Commission member Greg Misfeldt said the two downtown are in an ideal location because they are near services. Misfeldt asked if there were concerns with having the homes farther away from downtown. Cohoon said it has meant people staying outside downtown Chippewa Falls have had to walk or find a ride but it has worked out.
The church is near McDonell High School and Chippewa Falls Middle School. Cohoon said both school systems have written letters endorsing the tiny homes being placed at the church.
Last November, the council voted 6-1 to approve a conditional use permit for two tiny homes at Chippewa Valley Bible Church, 531 E. South Ave., on the south side of the city. The council had rejected the permit in October because several council members expressed their concerns about the tiny homes being close to Halmstad Elementary School, but a huge turnout of supporters the following month led to the council changing gears and approving them.
A tiny home is about 8-by-12 feet in size and mobile on a trailer, featuring a chemical toilet, heater, chair, table and bed. Each house costs between $5,000 and $7,000 to complete, including construction and furnishings.
In February 2017, the City Council approved a conditional permit for two tiny homes to be placed at Trinity United Methodist Church, 201 W. Central St., in downtown.
Chippewa Falls hasn’t had a homeless shelter since Harmony House closed in February 2014. The Chippewa Falls Mission Coalition — a group of 17 area churches — has been working on ways to fill the void since Harmony House closed. Besides the four tiny houses already approved in Chippewa Falls, there are two tiny homes at Landmark Christian Church in Lake Hallie.
People staying in tiny homes need to pass a background check first.
The Chippewa Falls City Council created an ordinance in February 2017 to allow tiny homes to be operated in city limits. The permit states the portable toilet must be emptied daily in the church’s bathroom. It also states there is a zero-tolerance policy on illegal activities, and alcohol, illegal drugs and guns or other weapons are banned from the homes.
Other rules stated in the special use permit include that no outside guests are allowed, cars must be parked in parking lots and not on lawns, and no open flames — including candles or cigarettes — are allowed inside, and guests must lock the door whenever they leave the premises.
City inspector Paul Lasiewicz told the Plan Commission he has not received any calls or heard any concerns with the tiny homes in the 18 months they have been operating.