Re: Working woth a developer
From: Lynn Nadeau (
Date: Sat, 9 May 1998 13:18:32 -0500
Self development can work. It takes years,  especially if you are 
simultaneously trying to raise kids, earn a living, otherwise have a 
life,  and learn how to be a city planner and developer as you go.
How it worked for us at RoseWind Cohousing in Port Townsend Washington ( 
a town of 8000): A few families got the land purchase started: the seller 
didn't want all the money at once, so that worked to our mutual 
advantage. Every six months we made a downpayment on an additional acre 
of the 9 acres, and kept up payments on the previously "initiated" 
blocks, as well as paying the taxes (minimal) on the whole thing. We were 
able to keep up with the payments on an out-of-pocket basis: we need $500 
this month, who can put more in?; and we also had a monthly assessment we 
added to the kitty--all credited to our eventual lot purchase. 

We are in the City, and the land had been platted long ago into 57 little 
single-lot parcels, with broad street right-of-way easements crossing in 
a grid. Obviously not what we wanted. So we learned how to do a Planned 
Unit Development proposal. With excellent support from the City Planning 
and Building Department we went through one "hoop"  after another, 
learning as we went. 

Besides deciding among ourselves (now about 6 families) what we wanted 
our site plan to look like-- where the home sites would be, the commons, 
the common house lot, the streets and paths--- we learned how to get it 
certified as non-wetland, how to do a Master Transportation Plan, how to 
satisfy the Universal Fire Code with the right sort of turn-arounds and 
hammerhead Ts for fire engine access, Environmental Impact Checklist, a 
drainage plan that allowed for the "hundred-year storm" (with 
"biofiltration swales"-- ditches!),  a street and parking plan, fire 
hydrant and sewer cleanout locations, utility placement (all buried), and 
so on. Plus the persuasive prose to make our case for being allowed to 
redesign this part of town, at all! 

We also included a proposal for a block where we had permission to set up 
offices, studios, and such (non-retail) for "home-occupations" of 
RoseWind residents. We also got permission for some of our housing to be 
"multi-family", in a part of town that's all single family. We got 
numerous street sections "vacated" so that the platted roads could never 
be run through. We successfully got Public Works to OK narrower streets 
than the recently-enlarged standards, as well as various parking "pods" 
instead of 8-ft parking strips down all the roadsides. 

We made our case in a series of public hearings before the Planning 
Commission and City Council.
And we got just about everything we asked for.  From land purchase to PUD 
approval took several years. We spent only minimal amounts of money on 
professionals-- the occasional lawyer consult, the things that needed an 
Engineer's stamp. 

Designing our housing units was not an issue, as we are a lot-development 
model, with owners building to suit their taste, needs, timetable,  and 
budget. Our housing has ended up as eclectic as our members-- cottages, 
and big homes, a dome, soon a straw-bale house, houses of wood, and 
houses of Ener-grid blocks of recycled styrofoam and concrete, stuccoed.  
In short, it blends right in with the surrounding area. 

It would have been way faster to pay professionals to expedite things. 
But we didn't have the money, and over time, we got it done anyway. 

When another batch of people joined, they pitched in to get the CC&Rs and 
Bylaws and such done. 
Now we are 20 households (having just "annexed" a neighbor) and 10 
families live on site. By the end of the year, three more will be in and 
another 2 or 3 homes started. Meanwhile, we take care of the commons, 
work in committees (including common house planning) , have monthly 
business meetings, sometimes get weekly community suppers going, and help 
each other out in various ways. We have gardens going, and an artistic 
concrete pump house for our garden water well. Just now the grassy fields 
have "rivers" of crimson clover in bloom, where we re-seeded the swales 
that had to be carved out for the drainage plan. 

I wouldn't discourage using "pros": but if there are obstacles to doing 
so, know that it's not absolutely necessary, if you are able to have it 
take longer. 

Lynn Nadeau at RoseWind Cohousing
5 minutes drive from anything in town, but with sightings of deer, 
coyotes, foxes, rabbits, eagles, hawks, and owls!

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