Tyler Truitt, a veteran, was jailed for ten days in November over his "off the grid" living situation in Huntsville, Alabama (video below).
WAFF reported in April that city officials condemned Truitt's property, and called his self-sufficient life style "unsafe." Truitt's home sits on his two acres of land, and does not use any city resources.
Truit explained his domestic situation, which includes his girlfriend, to the station:
We live out here 100% off the grid, self-sustaining ... So I basically made all my own utilities. I've got my own solar panels, I've got my rainwater collection system ... They said that our house is a trailer, which they say is not allowed within city limits ... And of course, they came, they condemned our house. They told us if we stayed here, we're going to be arrested for trespassing on our own property. And the reason why is they said it is was unsafe living conditions is because we don't have city utilities hooked up.
In May, the Huntsville mayor posted an open letter about Truitt to the community on the WAFF website:
The first citation on March 27, 2015 was for failing to meet zoning requirements – trailers are not allowed in the city limits unless they are located in a trailer park. Zoning Administration informed Mr. Truitt that he could apply to the Board of Zoning adjustment for a possible variance. He chose to go to municipal court and was found guilty of the violation on May 20, 2015. He appealed and has lost in court.
The second citation was issued May 12, 2015 by our Community Development Department for owning an unsafe structure (multiple code issues regarding safety, sanitation, sewer, utilities - Code #7-357 through 7-388 https://www.municode.com/library/al/huntsville/codes/code_of_ordinances). The violations were serious and the trailer was condemned. Mr. Truitt also lost this case in court.
The purpose behind these requirements is public safety. It is not to generate funds through permits – the cost is only about $11. The permitting process ensures that occupants of a residential dwelling have safe, potable, running water, and electricity, particularly in the wintertime. These are public safety regulations, regardless of how perceived by ome members of the public.
The City has posted the property as "Unsafe" for this reason. The absence of a connection to a sanitary sewer system (whether a septic system or sanitary sewer outfall line connected, ultimately, to a treatment facility, is not only a health and safety issue for the occupants, it's a health and safety issue for others who may live nearby. There are both benefits to be obtained, and compromises to be made, when people choose to live in an urban community.
Truitt posted an update on his Facebook page on Nov. 20, after his release from jail:
This concludes all pending legal action at the time, but what we expect to happen is for the city to come cite us again and start this process all over again. I'm not sure exactly what they're planning to do, buy I'm sure this won't be the end of it.
As for my experience in jail, there is one aspect of all this I briefly wanted to mention. Most of the jail and court, city, county etc. employees seem to be on our side. I had numerous guards tell me they thought our situation was messed up and apologize for what is happening to us. The deputy at the courthouse even said "Hey, aren't you that guy who was on TV living off grid? I can't believe they are doing this to you. That's really messed up."