RE: Using Legal Advice [WAS: Concerning Consensus and established CoHo communities
From: Eileen McCourt (
Date: Mon, 14 Mar 2005 11:44:53 -0800 (PST)
I appreciate Rob's Sharon's responses to the subject of lawyers.  I live in
the same community as Norm and have a very different take on what is going
on than he does. The benefit of lawyers in our situation could be to
introduce reasonableness into the discussion about what is actually harmful
to the community.  In a group that has committed to consensus, or that is at
least trying to understand what that would mean in terms of day to day
operations, resorting to legal remedies every time there is a disagreement
does not seem helpful in resolving these disagreements.  

While it is true that two or three trees have been removed at OCC (and so
far all have been transplanted and will probably survive), the community is
now talking about our overall landscape plan, individual expression, what
requires approval and developing a process for obtaining approval when
necessary.  The common garden area was appropriated for the play area by
group consensus that was thoroughly discussed for a number of weeks, even
months, with attention to mitigation of specific concerns.  Not everyone was
delighted by the outcome, but everyone agreed to go ahead with that plan,
which included identifying other areas for community gardening (we have 14
acres of land, 10 of which are undeveloped). The dog play area has been
under discussion for 9 months and has been painstakingly discussed (one
might say ad nauseum) and approved through each step from concept to
location to size and aesthetic concerns, complete with photo presentations
and budgets.   

One problem living in community is that everyone has a different level of
tolerance for ambiguity, and different tolerance for the risks associated
with making decisions in which the outcome cannot be fully known.  The most
contentious issues at OCC so far have been related to land use.  There is a
broad spectrum of opinions on what it means to own property in common, what
it means to designate Exclusive Use Common Areas, and what it means to say
that we will not develop the 10 acres of open space on our property.  The
most frustrating thing for me is the need of some OCC members to have all
possible contingencies and risks identified and addressed up front,
preferably with written agreements identifying all responsibilities and
liability, rather than trusting our ability to address problems as they


Eileen McCourt
Oak Creek Commons
Paso Robles, CA

-----Original Message-----
From: Sharon Villines [mailto:sharon [at]] 
Sent: Monday, March 14, 2005 10:17 AM
To: Cohousing-L
Subject: [C-L]_ Using Legal Advice [WAS: Concerning Consensus andestablished
CoHo communities

On Mar 14, 2005, at 12:49 PM, Rob Sandelin wrote:

> I would strongly disagree that dealing with lawyers is any way to deal 
> with
> situations described. If your goal is to be a community, then you need 
> to
> focus on how to do that. I can say with some confidence that lawyers 
> and
> rules will not make a community of caring people.

I don't think lawyers create a community of caring people but they can 
be very useful in working with people who have no interest in being a 
caring person in a community. They can also be useful in bringing 
people back to their senses when they are confiscating public land for 
private purposes which it sounds like is going on in this community.

We have a very good law firm in DC that works only with condos. Our 
lawyer has been very good at pointing out when something is potentially 
of great risk to the community and when it is not. She handled a very 
difficult negotiation with our developer without becoming 
confrontational. In other instances she has been very good at 
prioritizing things for us so we could distinguish between the really 
important and the not so important in terms of liability and financial 

She has been very helpful in assuring those who want to do everything 
with a lawyer that that is not necessary. For example, we don't need 
letters signed by a lawyer to give the board any authority. She has not 
infrequently said "No,  you don't need me to handle that. It will 
resolve itself."

Lawyers can be the kiss of death but they can also be the kiss of life 
-- just like other professionals. In many instances they allay fears 
and that is a good thing.

I changed the subject line because the community we are discussing has 
only been moved in from 6-12 months so it really isn't an established 
community and this response isn't related to consensus.

Sharon Villines
Takoma Village Cohousing, Washington DC

Cohousing-L mailing list -- Unsubscribe, archives and other info at:

Results generated by Tiger Technologies Web hosting using MHonArc.