U.S. Marine Corps veteran Tyler Truitt has met a few stumbling blocks in his quest to live, along with his girlfriend Soraya Hamar, more or less “off-the-grid.”
None have been so decisive or seemingly final as the recent word that has come down from the city of Huntsville’s municipal code enforcers, who have condemned his single-wide trailer — complete with a functional generator powered by solar panels, composting toilet and 550-gallon tank full of reserve rain water — as dangerous and unlivable.
The 27-year-old veteran says he is not harming his neighbors or anyone else by refraining from hooking up to municipal water and electric utilities. Truitt, who works at an Alabama military garrison at Redstone Arsenal, just wants to live a lifestyle free of debt that allows him to conserve natural resources and go back to school to finish his degree without incurring student loans.
“They’re taking a big option away from families that can’t afford to build a fancy house,” Truitt told AL.com.
“I have looked and didn’t see anything (in Huntsville’s Code of Ordinances) which says I’m not allowed to use off-grid utilities. They claim that it’s not sufficient to use off-grid utilities because it’s not a ‘permanent’ source of power.”
The city, however, sees it differently.
Huntsville is choosing to enforce requirements in city ordinance that “occupants of a residential dwelling have safe, potable, running water and electricity,” said Kelly Schrimsher, on behalf of Mayor Tommy Battle.
The city said Truitt would be free to live as off-the-grid as he wants out on unincorporated land in surrounding Madison County, but that where Truitt runs afoul of the law is his failure — or in his phrase, a conscious act of “civil disobedience” — to secure the proper permits and comply with city-limits building code.
“We encourage green environmental living, and we request interested citizens go through proper channels,” Schrimsher said. “Our departments stand ready and willing to guide them through the appropriate permitting process.”
Others not just in Alabama but across the country are speaking out about Truitt’s experience and the rights they believe protect his choice. A Facebook page “Stand With Taylor For Liberty” has more than 1,000 likes and a GoFundMe account set up on his behalf. The story has been picked up by several national constitutional groups concerned about the apparent violation of Truitt’s property rights with one commenter on the Facebook page drawing similarities to this case and the showdown at the Bundy Ranch.
Truitt’s first court appearance on the building code violations is set for July 29.
As of now, Truitt said he intends to resist the city’s coercions.
“Sometimes you have to take a stand for what you think is right,” Truitt said.