|RE: Cost up to zoning board approval||<– Date –> <– Thread –>|
|From: John Major (jmajormhz.com)|
|Date: Mon, 23 Sep 1996 17:16:29 -0500|
Heather - As usual, you got excellent and thorough advice from Rob Sandelin, but I thought I could add something, and in addition speak about the experience of having a member own the land. On the zoning process, Rob is right on about getting to know the city staff. We have been working with them for almost two years, talking it up, exploring ideas and so forth - we even invited a planner to our site programming workshop with the CoHousing Company. In fact, a city planner heard about our project and said "this is for me!" and joined us - she's been a great "mole". We are real happy with this approach, and just got unanimous approval from the zoning commissioners (next, the city - urk... - council). On the downside, I'd better point out that we got poor quality information from the staff early on - they said that we *wouldn't* have to rezone for higher density to attach the buildings, but it turned out that we did, a demoralizing turn of events. It also made quite a stink with the neighbors, who feared, reasonably, that we were big bad developers who were going to build apartment buildings and rent to "riff raff". Our kicker has always been that we were building at a lower density than what the *current* zoning allowed, much less what the new category would permit. So use that argument if you can. At any rate, work hard with the city staff, trust them, but tether your camel! Another thing for your strategy - in New England in particular there are some enlightened city planners who are interested in "cluster zoning" as a solution to the building out of rural areas. Many outlying suburbs of Boston, fearing high-density "city" living, zoned residential lots at > 1 acre, forcing big ugly developments of huge houses scattered evenly around, destroying the landscape that everyone moved there to cherish. "Cluster zoning" allows higher density development that maintains the rural nature - essentially, a small-town America layout that is ideal for CoHousing. There was even an article about Cluster zoning in the New Yorker a few years back! Look it up, and I bet you'll find some allies. Finally, about the owner/member - Wasatch CoHousing was founded by someone with a plot that he wanted to do CoHo on. He *very* wisely made us look around for other land (the site is not in a "tony" neighborhood, and everyone had their "ideal" site in mind) before he even told us what he wanted for it. So by the time he named his (ridiculously low) price, we had a sober idea of how hard it was to find a spot, and appreciated the site for all its evident qualities, not just for the fact that it was at hand. It sounds like your group has already had its conciousness raised on that point ;-) It was a tricky business figuring out how and how much to pay our owner - he was essentially offering us a grant, and we weren't sure whether that would be a healthy thing - but that was an excellent opportunity for us to build community, and the land situation has been pretty gracious all along the way. I'd say you have a great opportunity, but view it as a chance to learn all about everyone's hangups (including the owner's!), and be prepared to let money matters all hang out. By the way, you will need to buy the land outright before you start building, to give the bank "First position" on it, and protect your owner/member, so be prepared to finance the purchase early on. Our owner/member has given us all the rope we need ;-) but we are going to have to come up with the $$ shortly. We put a clause in our land purchase agreement that if we didn't get zoning, our owner/member would give us our downpayment back, and he'd get the land back - he could sell it at an easy profit, in any case, and you may be in a similar position being close to Albany. Good luck! John Major Wasatch CoHousing jmajor [at] mhz.com
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