Re: Rules & Regs
From: Sharon Villines (
Date: Thu, 4 Aug 2005 05:30:55 -0700 (PDT)
On Aug 3, 2005, at 11:30 PM, Michael Scalia wrote:

My feeling is that
we may have gone too far in trying to anticipate every eventuality.

The problem is in trying to anticipate every eventuality -- there lies the road to hell. You will spend so much time doing this, because they are endless, that you will exhaust yourselves. And the things that cause problems will be the ones you never thought of anyway.

One of the motivators is that a new builder is coming in to put up a
cluster of 25 homes.  The builder does not have a history of green
development, and with a tract of 25 already-built homes, this cluster
may appeal to the "more typical surburban homeowner" than the "died in
the wool EcoVillager" who had to sweat through the building process,

Another road to hell. Are these part of your complex? Our biggest problem was a construction company and subcontractors who had no idea what green was. Our place was built twice - once wrong and then torn out and done again. Subcontractors do not actually read contracts. They bid based on what they always do and then they do what they always do. Unless you catch them, there it stands.

The folks that write the environmental
guidelines (a committee of community members) are in the process of
bulking up the rules & regs in anticipation of this.  What I'm hearing
in the forum suggests that may not be the best approach.

One problem with this approach is that the rules of green change too. What is PC today may not be tomorrow or may not be under other circumstances. Or trying to implement too many things at one time may totally alienate people.

We recently discovered that a memo on architectural review was put out three or four years ago that no on the architectural review team now remembered. The problem with rules is that you have to keep rereading them and amending them. When we tried to write new rules, it got very complicated. We decided to take the approach that instead of a list of don'ts, we would just say anyone considering changes to their unit, inside or outside, should "consult Kathy. She can help you figure out how you can get what you want." Obviously if someone wants permanently installed moonwalk on the green, it isn't going to happen but Kathy can help them figure out when the moonwalk can be put up and what kind of controls should be in place.

Having a general objective that states your green philosophy, and then a specific person to consult might be much easier. 2-3 people to consult is actually better in case there are personality differences.

There are also so many books on green that you might suggest that people read one or two that best represent the philosophy of the group. Make the topic discussable and a process is better and less time consuming than writing rules.

New people may also demand rules. Rules can be comforting to some people but that is not a good reason to write them. The same people who want rules may also use the rules against you. "It isn't in the rules, therefore I can do it."

What you want to do is get people thinking about the issues and trying to address them the best possible way. The best way will not always be the one written in the rules. Raise the issues so people are educated and then share some of your answers, not rules.

Sharon Villines
Takoma Village Cohousing, Washington DC

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