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Cohousing development moving forward

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Photo by Tamie Meck Buyers of the 1.5-acre lot located on the east end of Third Street in Paonia slated for development closed on the property last week. Construction on the cohousing project, called Silver Leaf, is expected to begin in the spring.

Partners for the Silver Leaf project closed last week on the 1.5-acre vacant parcel, located on the north side of Third Street between Clark and Minnesota avenues. The land is zoned R-2 and platted for 19 lots and was listed for $179,900 by Re/Max Mountain West.

The partners for the project formed the nonprofit Circle Development Corporation specifically for the purpose of creating the project, according to Rob Dick, one of the partners. The project is modeled on the "cohousing" concept that originated in Denmark on the premise that communities are built "not brick by brick, but decision by decision." Residents are active participants in the design and operation of their neighborhood and have access to common facilities. The cohousing concept was introduced to a broader audience by Kathryn McCamant and husband Charles Durrett, who published "Cohousing: A Contemporary Approach to Housing Ourselves" in 1988.

The project's mission statement focuses on creating a community of "creative individuals committed to loving cooperatively and harmoniously" with attention to the environment and the community at large while creating a smaller footprint and "allowing time and resources for the pursuit of creative endeavors."

Dick estimates that about a dozen similar projects exist in Colorado. "My guess is, there will be more in the future."

Initial plans call for 12 detached, single-story units between 850-1,200 square feet with a master bedroom and bath, kitchen, dining area and living room. A "Universal Design" concept, which accommodates all ages and takes into account life changes, is considered throughout the planning and design process.

Development centers around a common house with kitchen, baths, guest quarters, areas for dining and art, and a shop. Added features will include an outdoor wood-fired oven and garden space. The entire facility will be fully accessible to accommodate disabilities.

That many of the amenities of daily living are located in the common area allows for construction of smaller homes without loss of convenience, said Dick.

Partner Trudy Welty is the driving force behind building in Paonia. "My family has a long history there and I am attracted to the beauty, agriculture, art, spirit and spiritual aspects of the community, as is the rest of the group," wrote Welty by email.

The partners, including Kathy Crawford, Rob Dick's wife and Welty's lifelong friend, also were drawn to Paonia's mild climate compared to many other mountain communities of its size. It also isn't inundated with tourism, and is "not pretentious. It's a real place." said Dick, who has lived in Denver for 22 years and also spent time in Steamboat Springs.

The area's restaurants and coffee shops, mining, agriculture and arts community, coupled with relative affordability and proximity to the amenities provided by Delta and Grand Junction were also an attraction. "The members of the group feel Paonia is an ideal community for the third phase of one's life," wrote Welty.

Many of the existing cohousing projects are geared toward baby boomers, because as people age their perspectives on life and daily needs begin to change. While the project is geared toward those age 65 and older, it is not age-restricted. However, said Dick, buyers need to understand that they are entering into a relationship. "They're buying into a concept and a community" that requires commitment and participation.

The project is in the design phase and 3Cycle Studio in Hotchkiss is both the architect and landscape architect. Price per unit is estimated in the $200,000 range, depending on a number of variables, said Dick. Units will be sold on a first-come, first-served basis. Developers are working closely with the Town of Paonia on the application process. The project represents upwards of $2 million in new housing, said town manager Jane Berry at a recent meeting of the board of trustees.

For information, contact Welty at 303-243-0870 or weltyappointments@gmail.com, or Dick at robdick@gmail.com or 970-846-8786.

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