Re: Zoning patterns
From: Fred-List manager (
Date: Tue, 17 Dec 2013 05:54:17 -0800 (PST)
Melanie Mindlin <sassetta [at]>
is the author of the message below.  It was posted by
Fred, the Cohousing-L list manager <fholson [at]>
--------------------  FORWARDED MESSAGE FOLLOWS --------------------
Hi Joyce,
I have not done this in a rural area, but I got our cohousing
community property re-zoned for our project and am now a Planning
Commissioner and occasionally help people with planning actions.  I
echo the sentiment that you should be careful not to agree to purchase
this land without the zoning you need as it is a very iffy
proposition.  That being said, if the landowner is willing to
cooperate with you in taking the time to explore the planning
possibilities, you might be able to convince your local jurisdiction
of the merit of your project.

Unless someone in your group is strong on understanding and speaking
the terminology used by planners, I strongly suggest that you work
with a planning professional, or if none is available or sympathetic,
you could try a land use lawyer.  Look to the goals in your County's
Comprehensive Plan or recent land-use goal setting sessions.  Very
likely you will find something to support your concept, such as
providing housing for seniors, more efficient transportation planning,
etc.  Cohousing communities meet most of the progressive goals being
set by local jurisdictions in their search to do better land use
planning and provide for the needs of the aging population and various
sustainability goals.  Then it is important to have an advocate on the
deciding government body.  Having a sympathetic County planner is
helpful, but in asking for zone changes or variances, you will likely
be in front of your Planning Commission or elected County officials
when the decision is made.  Try to get your Planning Department to
cooperate with you in creating an interesting plan that will be a
credit to your community to take to the real decision makers.  The
opinion of your neighbors can be surprisingly important when asking
your local officials to make changes on your behalf as it is
completely discretionary.  Be prepared to spend some money on the
effort as you will have to prepare professional looking plans and pay
fees to find out if they will do it or not.

Good luck with your project.  I would personally be extremely
interested to hear how this plays out for you.
Thanks for making the effort.
Melanie Mindlin
Ashland Cohousing Community

On Dec 16, 2013, at 3:16 AM, cohousing-l-request [at] wrote:

> Message: 1
> Date: Sat, 14 Dec 2013 17:59:49 -0700
> From: Joyce Thompson <revjat [at]>
> Subject: [C-L]_ Zoning patterns
> To: cohousing-l [at]
> Message-ID:
>       <CAEKKR-pF707HJumpYEtN_WoFP40hye1CKxThMCBxz49O7=msXQ [at] 
> Content-Type: text/plain; charset=ISO-8859-1
> Cohousing colleagues, we need help!
> We are Placitas Sage, a developing senior cohousing community in Placitas,
> New Mexico.  Placitas is a rural/suburban unincorporated area 10 miles
> north of Albuquerque and about 40 miles south of Santa Fe.  We have found a
> wonderful 11.8 acre site in the foothills of the Sandia mountains and
> planned to build 20 800-1200 sq.ft. units, but we have just learned the
> county zoning board is treating us like a *subdivision* and limiting us to
> only 11 housing units -- restricted to 1 house per acre, like most of the
> rest of the area.  That number is too small, both for community and for
> financial purposes, for our community.
> Have any of you persuaded a zoning board in a *rural* area to change the
> zoning for cohousing from a subdivision, allowing more dense clusters of
> housing units (condos/casitas) along with a common house and shared
> land/garden, etc.?
> Unlike urban areas, our water will come from wells, and septic systems will
> handle sewage.   This seems to be an unusual model for cohousing.  Have any
> of you created cohousing in a rural area with these kinds of systems?
> We have a good group of committed people, but we face many challenges,
> especially zoning and water supply issues, before we can proceed.  Any
> suggestions you can offer will be most appreciated
> Peace, Joyce Thompson
> Placitas Sage Cohousing

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