Investors eye tiny house development for Red River

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A group of investors hopes to beat winter weather and complete construction on a proposed "tiny house" project, The Silver Strike, by Memorial Day weekend 2018 in Red River. However, the project faces a few hurdles, including needed variances that were postponed by council during the Aug. 22 regular meeting so a special meeting for Red River's Planning and Zoning Commission could be scheduled for 10 a.m. Friday (Sept. 1) at the town's council chambers in the Red River Conference Center.

The commission will consider whether the project warrants a conditional use permit "to allow the building of residential units (townhouses) in the tourism overlay zone."

Partners Chad Mantz, Jess Radle and Jake Valentine plan to build 35 fully furnished, 600-square-foot "individually owned homes" that will be available to owners for 30 days in the winter and 30 days in the summer.

"The rest of the time, they'll be rented out to tourists," Radle told The Chronicle, adding his concept has generated excitement that includes possibly being featured in an upcoming HGTV project titled "Tiny Houses in Paradise."

Mantz introduced his partners at the council meeting, noting he went to meet Radle and Valentine of Piney Pods Real Estate Development in Ruidoso to talk tiny houses. "I got them up here and they went back to Ruidoso, packed up and moved here."

Mantz told the council he believed their project would "take Red River to the next level of awesome."

The recently implemented "Tourist Overlay" zoning is their biggest hurdle. The zoning -- which was one of many recommendations in the town's 2013 "Comprehensive Plan" -- defines commercial uses on Main Street, specifically requiring property fronting Main Street from Caribel Trail to Jay Hawk Trail generate gross receipts taxes and/or lodgers taxes. Homes and certain non-tourist-related businesses will not be allowed, such as car washes, auto dealerships, construction yards, storage buildings, auto mechanics, accounting firms, laundry services, public showers, landscaping businesses, septic services, tattoo parlors, funeral homes and pet kennels. Additionally, "Tourist Overlay" businesses must adhere to the town's architectural styles - including, but not necessarily limited to late 19th-century mining camp styles and Swiss chalet style.

Radle told The Chronicle the project meets "Tourist Overlay" requirements. "The Silver Strike really complements the mining theme of Red River. We're all about hospitality and the experience of Red River. Lodgers taxes, gross receipts taxes, property taxes … that will have a huge impact immediately. I think it's going to be a great asset to the community. Pioneer Lodge is such an eyesore. You can't even insure that thing anymore!"

Planning and Zoning Administrator Ed Saint told the council, "The way the ordinance is written, it's going to require a conditional use."

In addition to the "Tourist Overlay" zoning variance, Radle told The Chronicle they will request the town remove a 50-foot setback requirement from Main Street, allow the project to use 52 parking spaces instead of the required 70 and erect a 4-foot-by-8-foot temporary sign instead of the maximum 3-foot-by-3-foot sign.

Radle told the council, "I would implore you, because we have so much money at stake, to hold special council meeting in the next five days. Such meeting is dependent on whatever recommendation the [Red River] Planning and Zoning Commission makes Friday."

Mayor Linda Calhoun asked, "Not knowing what P&Z will do, do you have a plan B?"

Radle replied, essentially, no. "Land costs so much, construction costs so much ..."

Radle believes the unique owner-overnight rental concept should make the project's approval easier.

Mantz, the property's current owner, told the council they will help current long-term renters at the 20-unit dilapidated Pioneer Lodge find alternative housing, but added, "I had to budget for asbestos. Those are not a solution - they're that bad. This neighborhood's going to be completely different."

The Silver Strike's website notes, "New Mexico's first tiny townhome community" will feature "piney pods" with top-of-the-line products and furnishings, "a delivery service to help stock your refrigerator, pantry, spirits cabinet, toiletries … [optional] daily housekeeping, laundry services and concierge services."

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