Re: condos vs cohousing
From: Catya Belfer-Shevett (
Date: Sun, 11 Nov 2007 11:23:38 -0800 (PST)
Hi Liz,

In Massachusetts, we went the 40b route, which meant that because we did 25% affordable housing at our expense, we got to do clustering. I don't know what if any laws NH has that are similar.

I don't think that pursuing cohousing vs condo is going to get you anywhere if you have to convince more than a couple of people.

You might be better served by talking about land use. In your case, you're putting fewer housing units on the land than the zoning would allow - 18 instead of 40 if I read correctly, which means lower impact on roads and schools.

You might also be able to argue it's good for the town if you deed restrict the rest of the land as not developable, or offer to donate some large chunk of it outright to the town.

To convince a town meeting, you're going to need to tell them what's in it for them versus McMansions - a park for their kids? Fewer units? Lower school impact? Less traffic? They are not going to care about cohousing vs condos, and the more you make it "different" the more NIMBY you're likely to get.

Best of luck,

        - catya

Catya Belfer-Shevett    ____\  /     Cohousing in MA?
catya [at]     \  / \/            \/          Ready Fall 2008!

In Lyme, NH we (Pinnacle Project) own 120 acres. It is zoned rural residential with a 3 acre minimum, but there are other restrictions (road frontage, wetlands, slope, etc) that limit the MacMansions we would build (if we can't get the zoning permissions we want we have to protect ourselves from financial loss) to 7. No limits on how big each of the MacMansions could be or how many people live in them, so long as they have one kitchen.

We are working with a zoning consultant right now to draft some language our Zoning and Planning Board can bring to town meeting to allow us to build one Great House (18 private condo suites - 18000 sq ft with an additional 7000 feet of shared living space). If anyone has any model language or can point us to any resources we would really appreciate it (and I am sure other cohousing projects would too). thanks. liz

Liz Ryan Cole wrote, On 11/11/2007 9:53 AM:
With regard to zoning issues...I am thinking about arguments that can be
(or have been) made that distinguish cohousing from condos that are not
cohousing.  I am looking for language or experience that can help people
working on zoning issues with local boards.  Because the Pinnacle
Project is working with a zoning consultant right now this is a very
specific need for us, but it could also be useful more generally and in
the long term.

I think we could make at least one argument along environmental lines. We could say that residents in cohousing use less space per person over
all because they can share common space. So perhaps a Planning Board
could allow any multi-unit or clustered development in which the entire
usable space divided among the number of adult residents is no more than
X?  800 square feet, 1000 sq ft?

I think we could make a community oriented argument along these lines
----Cohousing is different from condos because residents have a
commitment to their own community and to the community in which they
live.  Perhaps the vision statement that members have to agree to should
be shared with local zoning people?  Has any group every said that a
work requirement (we assume 4 hours per week in the community, but could
consider making it 6 hours per week and say that 2 or 3 of those hours
can be satisfied by volunteering in the library, the local school, as a
board member, working with a local group (Lyme has something called
“those guys” who come and help people with whatever they need, like
stacking wood or fixing broken doors, etc).

Are there other arguments people have made?

I have been trying to think of the arguments that towns make against
"apartments" or condominiums
        a) they will not be owner occupied and will therefore not be
taken care of
        b) they will fill with families and “too many” kids will come
into the school system
        c) they will put too many demands on town infrastructure/sewer

thanks for any and all thoughts and suggestions.  liz

Liz Ryan Cole
h 802-785-4124

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Catya Belfer-Shevett    ____\  /     Cohousing in MA?
catya [at]     \  / \/            \/          Ready Fall 2008!

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