Private use of common land
From: Pablo Halpern (
Date: Fri, 29 May 1998 09:13:37 -0500

I have a question about how groups deal with the use of common land.

Some background: New View is a suburban cohousing community of where about
half of the houses are single family and the rest are duplexes (with one
triplex). We have a fair amount of common land and most people's
exlusive-use area (yards) abut some common land.

Recently there has been some debate about how common land may be used. One
member put a garden on common land, adjacent to their back yard.  They asked
permission of those people that they thought would be affected before hand,
but did not ask permission of the rest of the group. Also, some households
got together and built a large composter on common land at the edge of the
site. Again, they asked the people who have a direct view of it from their
houses first, but wouldn't have asked the rest of the group if one of the
participants hadn't insisted on it (after the composter was built, but while
it was still unused and movable).

The steering committee is trying to come up with a policy. We are finding
that the following poles have emerged:

Pole 1: "I don't want to have a group process for every little thing I do.
Why should I have to ask the group's permission to plant bulbs (or a garden
or...) at the edge of my yard?"

Pole 2: "I have no problem with so-and-so's floweres (or garden or
composter) except that nobody asked me if it was okay. I would like to be
trusted enough not to interfere unless it is really important to do so."

To avoid biasing the discussion, I will not yet tell you about our steering
committee deliberations. Have other groups had this issue come up? Do you
have policies about it? What are your opinions about a policy that would work?
- Pablo

Pablo Halpern                                    phalpern [at]

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