Re: "Cohousing Overlay" as Zoning Regulation
From: Michael Barrett (
Date: Thu, 10 Mar 2011 10:30:48 -0800 (PST)
In the building of Liberty Village in Maryland the width of the streets/pedways within the community was an issue. They were actually built (I think) to 10 feet. Years after they were built when the fire chief came around he said that would never happen again and they would be far wider, maybe 20 feet or more? And it was true there was one bend that required care when "Santa Claus" came through on top of a fire truck, with siren blaring, before each Christmas (and scared the b**j*sus out of many residents thinking a emergency existed). There was also a reasonable requirement that the pedways needed to be built to take the weight of the very occasional heavy traffic, i.e. moving vans and emergency vehicles.
The streets to the parking lots were of usual "wide" width.

"Street" width (and front and side setbacks) is a big factor in the "intimacy" factor, whether you can converse with your neighbor across the street from your porch. Duplex front porches that are not divided are friendly. A local _non_-cohousing retirement community has duplex homes with _separate_ front porches and two long ramps (for wheelchairs) to a huge wide parking lot. In that community you need to be in good physical shape if you want to chat face-to-face with your neighbors

At Shadowlake Village, where I now live, there was a requirement to define a specific rectangle on the plot within which the house would sit. This was _in addition_ to a maximum square footage _and_ setback requirements _and_ town review of any exterior changes. (Talk about belt and suspenders!). I wanted to make a 76 sq. foot extension to my house which lay within both the maximum sq. footage and the setbacks but which fell (a little bit) outside the arbitrary rectangle. It took some trouble and cost to get that finally allowed - including deluging the deciding body with letters from most every one of the 33 households here.

Some things had to be "given away" or "accepted" at the beginning of the community just to get permission to proceed.

Good luck

Michael Barrett
Shadowlake Village, VA

On 3/9/2011 6:40 PM, VAN DEIST wrote:
I want to learn what kinds of
provisions the readership would like to see in a "cohousing zoning
overlay."  Suncoast Elder Cohousing Community is working with the Sarasota 
County Planning Department to
  define a "cohousing overlay" to permit the unique, architectural, spacial, and
construction aspects of cohousing which might ordinarily run afoul of current
regulations.  These would be specific to cohousing developments and
would not effect any other current regulations.

The only topics
  which we're currently promoting is 1) for density to be increased with
the use of cottages 600 ft2 or less (counting as 1/2 of a dwelling unit)
  and cottages between 600 ft2 and 800 ft2 (counting as 3/4 of a dwelling
  unit) and 2) eliminating the restriction on clustered housing that
mandates that all homes lined up on any side be similar in design.
We're all for variety; have five, basic models; and don't want to be told what 
house goes where.  We planning only 24 cottages and a common house on five 

What other issues would you like to see included in a "cohousing zoning
overlay?"  We'd very much appreciate your input.

Thank you,

Van Deist, Organizer
Suncoast Elder Cohousing Community
Sarasota, FL
vandeist [at]

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