Re: Communes and Survivalists
From: R Philip Dowds (
Date: Mon, 1 Jul 2013 17:24:31 -0700 (PDT)
Legally, no city or town can discriminate against anyone on the basis of 
religious belief or lifestyle choice.  Utah, of all places, should know that if 
one guy and eight women choose to cohabit, there is no law preventing that.  
What is against the law is one guy claiming spousal or progeny benefits for 
more than one other party.  And, if a bunch of people want to live in small 
apartments and share a big garden shed, or a big basement, or a big common 
room, that's up to them.  If an intentional community determines that privacy 
is over-rated, and that members should know a great deal about each other's 
finances and fetishes, so be it:  That lifestyle choice is -- or should be -- 
beyond local regulation.

But here's the rub.  Most states, cities and towns have legitimate regulations 
governing all sorts of things.  Like, for better or worse, much local zoning 
celebrates the single family home on a one acre lot.  Meanwhile, multi-family 
buildings are either prohibited, or severely restricted.  Kitchens that serve 
more than one household can be classified as commercial kitchens, and a whole 
bunch of new rules kick in.  Rooms accommodating 50 or more persons are 
assembly occupancies, and yet more regulations are activated.  Building codes 
make clear you cannot construct dwellings out of cardboard boxes, and for some, 
hay bales do not seem all that different.  And so one.

Point is:  There are lots of legitimate reasons for regulating construction.  
But sometimes these reasons are indeed employed to discriminate against certain 
kinds of people and lifestyles.  Cohousers are not the only group, nor even the 
largest group, to suffer this kind of community intolerance.


Sent from my iPad

On Jul 1, 2013, at 7:54 PM, Sharon Villines <sharon [at]> 

> The ongoing challenge of cohousing is convincing town planning boards and 
> neighborhood associations that a cohousing community is not a commune. It is 
> more a cooperatively managed condominium than naked dancers in the woods 
> living on rice and fruit.
> But in Utah the challenge is even greater. The disclaimer on the Utah Valley 
> Commons Cohousing home page is:
> We are not survivalists.
> The full statement is:
> The Utah Valley Commons has no political or religious
> affiliation.  We are not "survivalists," nor do we attempt to
> impose lifestyle restrictions (e.g., what kind of food you can
> eat) on our members.  We respect each other's privacy.  The
> UVCC is committed to providing a safe, healthy, and
> sustainable community for individuals and families.
> Since they were able to get approval from the town planning board for straw 
> bale construction and to cluster the houses instead of spacing each house in 
> the center of several acres, I think they will be able to meet the 
> survivalist challenge. The survivalists are likely to disown them because 
> they are probably not comfortable with the temporal image of straw bale. 
> While it is a very strong and environmentally sound building material, it 
> does have the image of something not quite up to guns and combat.
> Sharon
> ----
> Sharon Villines
> Takoma Village Cohousing, Washington DC
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