Construction has begun on the second and third tiny houses on Rock Spring Road in Bel Air, as the developer works to put finishing touches on the first tiny house, which he began building in 2017.
All three houses under construction near the intersection of Vale and Moores Mill roads just outside town limits are a side project for builder and developer Craig Falanga, owner of Pinnacle Design Development Inc., and he hopes to have all three finished in about 90 days.
Falanga, who typically builds 10 or so 2,500- to 6,000-square-foot homes a year, became fascinated in 2015 with the “tiny home” concept — a minimalistic approach to a home with just the basic living space — and drew up his own plans to try building a different type of home, one not previously seen in Harford County.
The first tiny house — situated in the middle of the second and third houses — isn’t quite finished, he said.
“We decided to start the other two and get them to the same stage as the first one and then finish all three at the same time,” Falanga said.
Coming out of winter a little behind, he’s been slow to start construction of the two side houses, then was delayed this spring with the death of this great-nephew, 7-year-old Tripp Johnson, who was killed in a March 11 car crash on Route 24 in Bel Air that also took the life of Klein’s ShopRite President Andrew Klein.
Because it’s a family business, with six relatives working for Falanga, many of their projects were delayed in the aftermath of the crash.
A few weeks ago, the concrete block foundation was done for the second and third houses and Falanga said he hopes to pour the cement to finish the foundation this week, then begin framing.
“It’s time to get these things done,” Falanga said. “I’m tired of being the builder who can’t build a tiny house.”
He started construction on the first house in late 2017 but stopped at the end of last summer while planning the other two houses.
The 560-square-foot houses on lots a third of an acre will be basically the same, a loft master bedroom, a full bath, a kitchen and family room. The first house has a wrap-around porch, the two new ones will only have front porches, he said.
Once all three are finished, Falanga intends to keep them and rent them for about $1,200 a month, he said. As the landlord, his company would be responsible for all exterior maintenance — mowing, trimming, mulching, gardening, and probably even snow removal, he said.
He anticipates renting to someone 60 or older, he said, since that was the majority of the demographic that contacted him when he started building the first tiny house.
“They were the most passionate, too,” he said.
When Falanga bought the lane on Rock Spring Road, he thought it was a 100-foot wide lot, only to discover the property was actually four 25-foot wide parcels that had been combined.
He and the county found the stretch of property along Rock Spring Road between Vale and James roads was platted for 25-foot lots when it was developed in the late 1920s, Falanga said. When zoning codes went into affect, they became non-conforming lots, but the building rights couldn’t be taken away from them.
Falanga decided to combine the four parcels into three 33 1/3-foot wide lots to build this three tiny houses.
Now, he wants to try to change a Harford County zoning law regarding minimum lot size, and it would be better to have an example in making his case, he said.
He would like to have the minimum lot size to build a house on reduced from 8,750-square feet to 6,000-square feet.
“There are a lot of properties around, older, in town and right outside, if I bought one house and tore it down, the lot could be divided in half,” Falanga said.
Cindy Mumby, a spokeswoman for Harford County government, said it would take legislation from either the county executive or a county council representative to create a zoning classification for a tiny house which, which doesn’t exist under existing zoning laws.
“A single-family house is the closest thing to a tiny house,” Mumby said. “A tiny house could be proposed as its own zoning classification.”
If he built two tiny houses, Falanga said he could adhere to all other zoning laws but not have enough square feet left on the lot.
“Even though I can fit two of them, I can’t put two there,” he said. “It’s easier to make a good argument when you have the real thing in front of you.”
Micro-apartments and other plans
Falanga’s other project, at the corner of Churchville Road and Bond Street in Bel Air, has been delayed, too.
He and his partner in the project, Joe Thompson, have been considering different types of projects on the site, a 41-by-300-foot lot where Lutz Appliances owner Ruth Foard lived until her death in December 2016 at age 95.
Their initial plan — a building with retail on the first floor and micro-apartments on the upper floors — is their default plan, but they are looking at other options. A couple local restaurants have asked about leasing the property while others have asked about building a hotel, he said.
Anything that’s built there would have to meet the Town of Bel Air’s parking requirements.
Aberdeen and Havre de Grace have done away with parking requirements in their cities, to encourage revitalization and offer incentive to businesses to come into town.
While the plans for the parcel are undecided, the house on it will soon be torn down, Falanga said.
“We’re disconnecting the utilities next week and we’ll apply for a permit to demolish the building so we have an open, clean lot,” he said.