Re: Private vs. Public space, next to back door
From: Sharon Villines (
Date: Wed, 7 Jul 2004 04:18:35 -0700 (PDT)

On Jul 6, 2004, at 7:33 PM, edwin wrote:

Some members of the community are against us relocating the bunny hutch to this area, saying that it would be unsightly or otherwise undesirable. Those opposed are not from any of the households which are right up against the plaza. [snip] On the one hand, the space outside our back door is part of the commonhouse plaza; on the other hand, I could not conceive of trying to dictate what is done right outside of the doorway of any other household, without strong consideration of the needs and wishes of that unit's occupants.

We just had a similar problem with a raised flower bed and some tomato plants in common space, both immediately outside a unit door. We have a process for architectural review in which any structures are reviewed and objections have to be resolved before going forward. The tomato plants did not need review and we have had tomato plants in other "public" gardens along the green, but in this case the residents put wire cages over the plants making them much less decorative and difficult to walk around. The raised bed turned out to be almost twice the approved size and blocked access to an area used by another resident.

While the builders understood the problem of blocking access, they and others thought no one should ever object to "good" things like vegetables anywhere on the property. Others (myself included) are concerned about the look of the whole property and do not want wire cages on plants in the decorative gardens. Even in the area set aside for vegetable gardens the wire cages (fully visible from my unit) are less than inviting. While it may seem like the area right outside your front door is "yours" and should be no body's business, it is is in full view all the time. Unlike a private home where you have a greater distance between homes, in a condo we are all on top of each other and this requires much greater concern for the aesthetics of others. It requires more homogeneity and much more working through of what is acceptable to everyone.

I would suggest looking into bunny huts and finding a picture of an attractive one to show people. Also setting standards about cleanliness -- weekly remove of feces, etc. If this is a visible place, people do not want to be looking at a barnyard (even a 4 sq ft one) even if it is a bunny barnyard. Explain how often the cage would be cleaned and that rotting lettuce would not be allowed to accumulate. These kinds of agreements go a long way to assuaging people's fears. Often they are reacting to the worst possible case rather than the reality.

A great little house with a bunny could actually become a community mascot and a great attraction for visiting grandchildren as well as residents. This seems like a case that could be turned into a fabulous community asset but has to be done well. Ask a third party to help with the negotiations. I find this takes the pressure off and allows everyone to speak more freely. You have to be clear about the objections before you can resolve them and a third party is often needed to facilitate clarity.

Sharon Villines
Takoma Village Cohousing, Washington DC

Results generated by Tiger Technologies Web hosting using MHonArc.