Re: The dark days before a site
From: Jim Snyder-Grant (
Date: Tue, 2 Jan 2001 20:09:26 -0700 (MST)
Another 'dark days' story: from New View, Acton MA.

We were (by a month or two, I think) the first cohousing group to start in
Massachusetts, but maybe the third or maybe fourth to be built, depending on
whether you start from ground breaking or completion of the last home. A
long trip.

We spend a few years in the 'desert' - flailing around without much idea of
what we were doing, learning slowly about about real estate, and quickly
about how to work together.

I think our hardest time was near the end of our wanderings, soon after we
settled in on Acton as the only town with the right combination of zoning,
affordability (barely), commute distance to Boston, access to public
transit, good schools, etc. We formed a relationship with a developer around
a site right in South Acton. We had both wanted control of the site, but he
got to it first. (The site was  well screened by trees, right next to
conservation land & the South Acton train station - a wonderful location but
marred by a failed development that had scraped up all the top soil). We had
many meetings with the developer to discuss how we could work together, etc.
But he kept delaying signing a formal letter of understanding. At the first
meeting with town boards, he presented a plan that didn't include us, and we
realized he had lost interest in working with us but hadn't told us, and he
had formal control of the land.

I thought many people would leave. Certainly the negotiating committee fell
back, discouraged. But newer members of the group, who lived in Acton,
became activated to begin an intense & exhaustive search that ended a few
months later with a beautiful site in West Acton, next to conservation land.

The roller coaster ride that followed of financing, permitting, perking,
designing also had a lot of scary moments where I thought we would lose many
people, or the site - but that's a story for another day.

The group started in 1989 & started building in 1995. Here it is 2001 & we
are all here, rehearsing for the third or fourth play in the common house
(when we are not shovelling snow).

-Jim Snyder-Grant

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