Re: Working on a coCamping project ADK A.C.R.E.S. while planning for future cohousing.
From: Raines Cohen (
Date: Mon, 3 Aug 2009 09:08:15 -0700 (PDT)
Bob -
Welcome to the cohousing movement and this corner of our little online
community, and thanks for sharing your vision.

That's quite an extensive concept you've got there, seemingly fractal in
nature (the more you look at it, the more detail unfolds). Let's see if I've
got the essence of it:
* on an existing 197-acre site you own (and an adjacent parcel across the
* building a campground/retreat
* with a mix of affordable (outside subsidized) and market-rate housing
* incorporating senior cohousing/aging-in-place/universal design
* lot-model development of tiny homes
* "retrofit" cohousing of existing structures
* in a resort-destination seasonal location
* with profit-sharing and time-sharing
* refundable (but not on-demand) investments
* an eventually-established finance committee democratizing the process
* potential "seasteading" floating-community options.

Have you visited any of the many established cohousing neighborhoods in your
region? My wife Betsy and I were just in Vermont, New Hampshire,
Massachusetts, and New York, and we were impressed by the degree that built
and planned cohousing neighborhoods in that area involve not just open-space
preservation through clustered development but also keeping active farms
alive and farm animals: "co-horsing," if you will.

One group, The Pinnacle Project (Lyme,
NH), plans to build community around an operational over-100-year-old
summer retreat,
Loch Lyme Lodge, and rewards investment through credits on cabin/room
rental; some of their experience and vision may be highly relevant for your
pursuit. We can make introductions if a relationship seems to be mutually

I believe there's a Northern New England cohousing bus tour coming up there
this Fall that can provide extensive, intensive exposure to visions of
community and the people who made them possible, with a chance to meet other
seekers and community visionaries moving along paths similar to yours.

Before you do more outreach/solicitation of investment/membership, I would
recommend that get guidance from a New York State real estate attorney. My
understanding, from visiting and working with several groups in the state,
is that real-estate development and group-formation outreach is highly
regulated and enforced there, to protect us poor innocent future
homeowners/investors from those evil scheming risky developers (which also
happen to be us, in cohousing). One group we've worked with spent seven
years in the process, just to get to the point where they can solicit
participation from and disclose investment details to certain groups of
people -- and posting on a publicly archived list such as this may indeed be
seen as public advertising/outreach.

Also, a cautionary note on group development: you may find that having
everything figured out to the extent you have is potentially a deterrent to
future members... some may fear, accurately or not, that their potential
input will have limited impact on the physical and social design of the
project. Because you're starting out with "all the marbles in your bag" in
terms of the land and plans, the initial relationship may be closer to
landlord-tenant... and while that may be a viable business model and meet
your needs and that of some others, it doesn't provide for the full range of
egalitarian decision-making that is an important element of most cohousing.

Plus, many people can't afford community living (or take the risks inherent
in it) without conventional mortgage financing.. and you may find lending
options limited when you're pursuing so many innovative goals at once. The
banking sector is, as we have recently been reminded, risk-averse, and
without the leverage they can provide, potential members' housing options
may be limited.

Given your family needs and composition, you might also look into
alternative Intentional Communities structures including the "Camp Hill"
model. I'm on the Fellowship for Intentional Community (FIC) board (,
and there are a wide variety of communities documented in the directory
(print and online) and Communities magazine.

You can find a variety of useful and informative books and videos in the
Resources section of the website, and some useful info in
the list archives there as well.

But as you start what is essentially a multi-million-dollar development
project lasting a decade or more in development, and bound to attract the
attention of potential foes and allies near and far, your smartest
investment may be in development partners, especially those with experience
and reputation for successfully transforming exciting sites with great
potential into livable, collaborative neighborhoods where the value is
maximized for all and the odds of getting your needs met along the way are

Raines Cohen, Cohousing Coach
Planning for Sustainable Communities
at Berkeley (CA) Cohousing

Speaking Sunday evening (8/9) on "Aging In Community" on behalf of Cohousing
Collaborative's forming (around a particular site) Falls Church (VA)
aging-friendly cohousing group at Takoma Village (DC) cohousing. Tour,
potluck included; advance RSVP required:

Featuring cohousing as part of a "Democracy Begins At Home" booth at the
Netroots Nation progressive-activist conference August 13-16 in Pittsburgh,
PA. Contact me for info about free admission or outreach opportunities for
your group in exchange for helping out.

Betsy and I will be visiting the Boston and Eastern Rhode Island areas
September 9-13 and again in early November; available for training,
facilitation, coaching, community visits, or discussions about sustainable
community, aging in community, affordability strategies, outreach/marketing,
web development, or just sharing insights from visiting more than ninety
established cohousing neighborhoods across the U.S.

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