Group Involvement in the Development Process
From: Sharon Villines (
Date: Wed, 12 Dec 2001 13:03:01 -0700 (MST)
> Development
> on the other hand, includes acquiring land, doing feasibility, hiring
> professionals, acquiring permits and land use entitlements, arranging for
> development partnerships and financing, and of course arranging for the
> construction of the project.

> 1. The more a group controls the development process, the more they feel
> burned out as a group (and as individuals) when they move in, often being
> inclined to retreat from community for a period of time after move in.

When I started exploring cohousing I had no idea that I was taking on real
estate development or even what the word meant. I thought you just hired a
company to do the construction and that was that. That is the first learning
curve for cohousing prospects and I heartily agree with Chris that this part
should be left to professional developers.

The demands and emergencies and complexities of zoning and construction are
enormous. Development is a huge effort requiring many whole companies of
people to complete.

The other side of the group being too involved in the construction process
is that "we" are amateurs. Even if we are intelligent, well-educated hobby
environmentalists, we have probably not built anything larger than a
gingerbread house (without running water and plumbing).

TVC is one year after move in and we still have over 100 items unfinished --
flooded basements and leaking windows, an unfinished hot tub, and roof
flashing that was apparently put on backwards. Supervision of subcontractors
is a nightmare. And there are still very few if any who understand new
environmentally aware standards and materials. Nothing devious, they just
don't get it.

Not only will this _still_ take enormous hours of people time to sort out,
but we were involved in the choice of many materials and referred our
developer to sources. In some instances, he feels that we were responsible
for how things turned out. He was meeting our requests therefore we are

Some of us feel that this is unfair since he was the professional and should
have rejected our requests as undoable.

When the group is too involved in the development process, the lines of
expertise and authority get blurred.

In the end our very excellent, very hard-working design team was too
overwhelmed dealing with construction delays to make any decisions about
things like paint colors and finishing details. These require a fair amount
of process to reach any consensus but are as important to as many people as
the use of properly harvested wood and environmentally approved glues is to

In the end we had no choice on colors and lighting fixtures -- things we
could hardly screw up on. But it was just too late and we were too tired.
The developer chose.

Chris is right. Draw the lines early and each of you (the group and the
developer) get to work on your part. It is never too early to plan the

Sharon Villines
Takoma Village Cohousing, Washington DC

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