Re: "Cohousing Overlay" as Zoning Regulation
From: Richart Keller (
Date: Thu, 10 Mar 2011 10:58:15 -0800 (PST)
Seems to me that 20' is much too wide though the curves should accommodate
reasonably anticipated emergency vehicles. (E.g. unless you have a high rise
development, designing for a full size hook and ladder truck sounds a bit
excessive...).  Strategically-placed, hard surface pulloffs could be used to
avoid the problem of temporarily parked vehicles blocking the road/walkway.
The fire chief is not always the best source of advice on road
configuration...  I would suggest working with the town planner.


Richart Keller, AICP
Pioneer Valley Cohousing
120 Pulpit Hill Road #25
Amherst, MA 01002
401 486-2677 (cell)

-----Original Message-----
From: Michael Barrett [mailto:mbarrett [at]] 
Sent: Thursday, March 10, 2011 1:31 PM
To: cohousing-l [at]
Subject: Re: [C-L]_ "Cohousing Overlay" as Zoning Regulation

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
>   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 acres.
> 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]
> 941.223.5880
> _________________________________________________________________
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