Re: Urban/Suburban/Rural decision at start?
From: Laura Fitch (
Date: Wed, 10 Aug 2005 16:17:48 -0700 (PDT)
Yes, but I also know something about the town I grew up in - Concord. Where I lived in the first cluster subdivision in the United States - the cohousing of the 50's. It was affordable, and it was radical. Underneath all the current development pressure there is history and beauty, and I'll defend it to the end!

----- Original Message ----- From: "Chris ScottHanson" <chris [at]>
To: "Cohousing-L" <cohousing-l [at]>
Sent: Wednesday, August 10, 2005 4:17 PM
Subject: Re: [C-L]_ Urban/Suburban/Rural decision at start?

Oh my.  Laura is right.

I must confess that I was really only talking about the many Towns in the Boston Metro area of eastern Massachusetts. I am not at all familiar with the zoning and politics of the beautiful Pioneer Valley.

Chris ScottHanson

On Aug 10, 2005, at 11:57 AM, Laura Fitch wrote:

Even though I have to agree that looking in an urban area is a good idea (for environmental and job reasons), I disagree with Chris' characterization of the small towns in my State. The reason many of us choose to stay in New England is because most of this area was developed before the car, and we KNOW what smart growth is. It's true, our zoning has not been updated now that development pressures have begun to transform our beloved towns into sprawl - but they are changing - we are not in the "dark ages"..

Two projects in the Northampton area developed in less than five years because a developer was found with land - the 40B process was not necessary.

----- Original Message ----- From: "Chris ScottHanson" <chris [at]>
To: "Cohousing-L" <cohousing-l [at]>
Sent: Wednesday, August 10, 2005 1:20 PM
Subject: Re: [C-L]_ Urban/Suburban/Rural decision at start?

An another opinion...

Buzz and his new community are privileged (lucky, smart?) to be looking in the Boston market where housing demand is very high and growing daily, and where commute times are not all that bad for a rich source of jobs and education and culture. They have opportunities (it would seem) in rural areas (even horse country), small towns, and urban areas of numerous types and personalities.

Buzz in unlucky to live in a location where planning and zoning is still back in the dark ages, especially in the small towns and the rural areas. I have spent thousands of hours doing land search in the Boston Metro area and I can tell you, the big problem is finding a town where they won't throw rocks at you when you propose a project. And most towns have been so ineffective about managing their zoning during the past 40 years that the State has had to pass an "anti-snob" zoning law to allow developers to literally ignore local zoning and build ANYTHING they want subject to providing 25% affordable housing as a part of the project.

In my opinion, a decision to focus in urban areas is a decision to have you project take half as long to come to fruition.

In the Boston Metro area, I can not recommend strongly enough to consider urban areas where clustered townhouses are welcomed. Where some of the towns have even heard the term "smart growth."


On Aug 9, 2005, at 8:30 AM, OCC611ng wrote:

Hi Buzz:

   In the condominium model in which all the living units are  sold as
pre-built homes, nearness to places of employment is a prime factor in determining the market value of the homes as well as the marketability of the units among cohousers. It can also be a strong determinant of the ages
of your members.

Here in the Central Coast of California, we are not within commuting distance of any large city. Jobs paying middle incomes are scarce. We are located in a small city and within commuting distances of two other small
cities.  Most of the high-paying jobs in the state are in Southern
California and in the San Francisco Bay Area, neither area being within
commuting distance.  We are not rural.  We are located in a pleasant
residential neighborhood near a large outdoor mall shopping center with huge parking lots and many cars. You might say that we are suburban but not
within the pull of a nearby urban center.

This is a desirable area (picturesque wine country, nearby beach). Relocating here is impossible for many young people because of lack of jobs and the high price of housing. This was a severe handicap in marketing our units. Our construction costs were high and we were concerned that we would have to sell the units for less than it cost to build them. We had to cut corners (value engineering) in order to keep the asking prices from being too high for the market. We barely made the quota of pre-sold units that
the developer asked for before agreeing to start construction.

Looking at your market area is vital in determining the success of your

Norm Gauss
Oak Creek Commons
Paso Robles, CA

----- Original Message -----
From: "Buzz Harris" <buzz [at]>
To: <Cohousing-L [at]>
Sent: Monday, August 08, 2005 2:31 AM
Subject: [C-L]_ Urban/Suburban/Rural decision at start?

Hi folks.

I am involved with a new cohousing group starting up in the greater Boston area (I was involved with Mosaic Commons - Hi Catya! - but the land that they found is, sadly, too far away from work, etc. for my honey and me).

While my partner and I are open to living in cohousing in urban, suburban, or rural settings, some people have strong preferences for one or another
of these possibilities and/or for specific areas of a state.

My question is this - in the experience of those who have gone down this road before, how important is it for a cohousing group to clarify early
where it wants to search for land (urban, suburban, rural)?  Or  is it
important at all?




Buzz Harris
Writer, activist, & political researcher

buzz_harris [at]


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