Re: Rural Cohousing Community on 4 Acres
From: David Oesper (
Date: Sun, 9 Aug 2020 23:10:10 -0700 (PDT)
Many thanks to Liz, Mark, Al, and the others who privately responded to my 
question about whether 4 acres is enough land for a rural cohousing community.  
I am happy to see the short answer is “yes”.

Liz wrote:

> This is, in part, a zoning question--what does your zoning say is allowed?

I’m looking into existing zoning now with the county assessor.  The property is 
in Hidalgo County, New Mexico.  This is a rural 333-acre residential 
astronomy-oriented subdivision, but the developers were involved with some sort 
of Ponzi scheme and at least one of them did prison time.  So the scheme 
collapsed, barely any of the expected infrastructure was ever introduced, and 
the intended HOA was never put in place.  The landowners (including myself) are 
stuck with expensive ($26,000) 4-acre parcels of land trying to decide what to 
do next.  Some want to sell, but others of us are exploring what needs to be 
done to allow a phoenix to rise from the ashes.

I am prepared to donate my 4 acres of land for a cohousing project, but we’ll 
have to see if the county will currently allow this or if we will need to apply 
for a variance.  Another concern right now is finding a way to contact all the 
other landowners (there are 34, three of which are already in communiciation 
and include myself) to see if anyone is going to have a problem with one of the 
parcels being developed as a cohousing community.

> And a water question--will you be on a town water supply or a well,
> and how much water will the well produce?

It will be a well.  The developer’s disclosure statement dated April 2, 2010 
states the following:

“Individual or shared domestic wells will be required to provide water for lots 
within the subdivision.  Shared wells may be used by multiple homes depending 
on water demand and well capacity…the cost of installing a typical domestic 
well is approximately $13,000 based on the recommended total well depth in the 
area of the subdivision.”

“Available data from the four nearby wells indicates that the average depth to 
groundwater is approximately 224 feet, and the well depth is 349 feet.  The 
minimum and maximum well depth to be reasonably expected is 320 feet and 500 
feet, respectively.  The recommended total depth of wells is 360 feet.  Wells 
completed to the recommended depth are estimated to produce 20 gallons per 

“According to the OSE Regional Water Plan, the aquifer depth and 
characteristics provide an ample water supply for the foreseeable future.  The 
report estimates that the average groundwater depth of the basin in 2060 will 
be 330 feet.  Based on the OSE Regional Water Plan, the life expectancy of the 
water supply in the area of the subdivision is in excess of 50 years.” 

> And a septic question--does the land have a good perc? That is, does stuff 
> sit on the top or go down into the soil?

The former, I believe, unfortunately.

“Due to topographic and geologic features which may exist throughout the 
subdivision, some lots may require alternative on-site liquid waste systems.”

“Three soil series are present within the subdivision; including Graham 
extremely rocky clay loam on 0-3% slopes, Jal loam, and Stellar cobbly silty 
clay loam…The majority of the soils in the subdivision are somewhat limited to 
very limited based on depth to hard bedrock and shrink-swell potential.  
Limitations may generally be overcome by soil reclamation, including 
specialized design and installation practices.”

The "Septic Tank Absorption Fields” table indicates that 88.4% of the 
subdivision has a rating of “Very limited”.

“Very limited “ indicates that the soil has one or more features that are 
unfavorable for the specified use.  The limitations generally cannot be 
overcome without major soil reclamation, special design, or expensive 
installation procedures.  Poor performance and high maintenance can be 

So, septic is going to be a challenge.

Many thanks,

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