Re: Solar Eco-Village in Utah!
From: balaji (
Date: Mon, 8 Jun 2009 22:06:30 -0700 (PDT)
Dear Raines,

Thank you for your comments.  We appreciate your interest in our project. 
Clearly we need to continue to improve and modify the website.  It is new
(in this version) and needs a lot of work.

The 50 acres of land will be under contract, probably within days, and
that accounts for some of the peculiar tense expressions.  We are betwixt
and between, as it were.  The site, however, is pretty well fixed, and the
features we describe are all tailored very specifically to it.

To answer some of your questions -- all of which< I agre, we need to
address on the website:

1.  40 houses is the minimum necessary for the project to turn a profit
and repay the outside investors.  We ran the numbers.  That was the magic

2.  The houses are single family because that makes them more marketable
in Utah County.  They are, however, small, since our objective is to make
them as low cost as possible.  All the houses will be powered from a
singe-source PV array; heated and cooled with a closed loop geothermal
system; and supplied with water from our own source.  I don't know for
sure, but I believe this will make us nearly unique in the cohousing

3.  We are using a small package sewage treatment system because we have a
high water table and the tight clustering of the houses make underground
septic systems impossible. The county provides no services.

4.  Most of the land will set aside in permanent agricultural easement in
order to qualify us for a greenbelt tax break and to secure the county's
approval for rezoning agricultural land to residential.

5.  Agricultural space will be developed by residents and/or a combination
of residents and a professional grower.  Of course it will take years to
develop its potential.  The land we have selected is completely raw,
having been owned (but never used) by Utah State University.  We have
tested the soil and the water for contaminants.

6. Our site planner, Wayne Bingham, designed the site for timber-frame and
strawbale because we like this building style, and it works well here. 
(Our model is Heartwood.)  It also gives the chance to do some of the work

7. We are using the faster, but financially more risky, "build it and they
will come" approach.  Most of the lots will be developed on spec.  Here we
depart from the "standard" cohousing approach of resident-driven
development.  (Is that a cohousing heresy?  I hope not.)  The site will be
developed as described on the website, and people will come (or not come)
based on whether or not they like it.

8.  So far, very few from out of state has expressed interest, but we
would certainly like to attract such people.

Thanks again, Raines, for your helpful suggestions.  We will soon revise
the website.  Check it out from time to time, and do let us know if there
is anything else we can do to improve it.

With best wishes,

Charles Nuckolls

P.S.  Unfortunately, I will be in South America during the conference. 
Otherwise, I would love to attend.

> Charles and Janis -
> That's a great vision you have for Utah Valley Commons. I've been
> following the progress of your group for some time, looking forward to
> a second cohousing neighborhood in Utah.
> However, it does seem to me to be rather forward to be so specific
> about all the attributes of the place before there's a there there, so
> to speak... your website mentions consideration of several potential
> sites, but I find it hard to imagine that every single item you list
> will be possible and suitable for every site you select.
> And how about if future members have different priorities or ideas..
> will they be welcome? I might be reluctant to join a group that was so
> seemingly certain about the plan for 40 homes when just a few
> households were engaged.
> What might be more illuminatory and enticing in engaging your future
> members could be more depth to the vision and how it came to be. Get
> people exposed to some of the process that leads to answer questions
> like:
> * Why timber-frame straw bale, as opposed to Structural Insulated
> Panels (SIPs)? Why detached vs. attached homes?
> * What values are encapsulated in taking responsibility for your own
> water source AND treatment onsite, and what limitations does this
> place on potential locations for the community? (i.e. most urban
> jurisdictions require sewer tie-in and have water rights tied up
> already). If you found a site that was "easy commuting distance to
> Provo" but didn't meet those specifications to the letter, would you
> move forward with it?
> * What kind of time commitment and resident education will be involved
> in growing most of the community's own food, rather than the 1-3% at
> most that is typical of most cohousing to date?
> While your website has great pictures, the language slips between
> tenses at points... i.e you say it IS a condominium association,
> although unless Utah law is far different from most states' in this
> regard, you don't create a condo association until the land is secured
> and development is underway... your "Legal" page makes it clearer, but
> it doesn't lead to greater engagement and commitment by talking about
> all the different options to join the LLC or association.
> I also wanted to flag where you say 'We also prefer land that is
> "raw," and therefore uncontaminated with artificial chemicals and
> toxic substances.' While it may be possible to find a site that's
> never been mined or ranched or farmed with new toxics introduced or
> old ones exposed, of course there are plenty of naturally occurring
> toxics in land and water, and potential vulnerabilities to ones from
> nearby sites.
> You might want to enrich your website with more about the region,
> unless you expect most of your members to be familiar with it. Why
> would somebody want to move there? Help people fall in love with the
> place, and then join you in refining your vision and matching it to
> on-the-ground potential.
> Will I be seeing any Utah Valley Commoners at the National Cohousing
> Conference in Seattle this month? It would be great to explore your
> vision further and see how partners in the movement can help you make
> it a reality.
> Raines Cohen, Cohousing Coach
> at Berkeley (CA) Cohousing
> just off the phone from coaching a forming group in Southern CA that
> found us via the Coho/US website, after spending a year trying to
> figure out how to get started.
> Reminding everyone to register today for the national conference for
> the best rates, if you want to get some free Cohousing Coaching at our
> booth:
> Fresh from Saturday's Daily Acts Cohousing Coalescing driving tour of
> North Bay communities, Petaluma to Santa Rosa, which I carpooled with
> my Berkeley neighbor in a plug-in hybrid carshare vehicle, and toured
> several potential community sites afterwards.
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