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A try for cohousing.

Byline: Randi Bjornstad The Register-Guard

Correction (published Sept. 24, 2013): A public hearing scheduled for the proposed Oakleigh Meadow Cohousing development on Oct. 2 will be held before a hearings official. A story in Monday's City/Region section about the project incorrectly stated that the hearing would be before the Eugene City Council. Also, the location of the hearing has been changed to the Bascom-Tykeson Room in the Eugene Public Library at 100 W. 10th Ave. It previously was set for the Sloat Room in The Atrium Building.

Laura Fischrup seeks a community "where I know all the people and they know me." And Lynn Dixon wants to be part of a group that helps each other, like the people in the rural area where she grew up.

Katy Patton hopes "to age in place with familiar people around me," while R.C. Cross envisions living in a multigenerational setting where his granddaughter "can go back and forth safely between her house and my own."

All four are members of Oakleigh Meadow LLC, a legal collection of nearly a dozen households - single people, couples and families with children - who hope to become Eugene's first co housing development.

Each would live in their own flat or townhouse but share outdoor space, a "common house" for taking some meals together, participate in recreational activities, even maintain central laundry facilities.

Next week, the Eugene City Council will hold a public hearing before deciding whether to grant tentative approval of a planned unit development proposal that would move Oakleigh Meadow one step closer to construction on a 2.7-acre parcel off River Road at the end of Oakleigh Lane, just across a wide band of the publicly controlled Willamette Greenway from the river itself.

Eventually, Oakleigh Meadow Cohousing envisions a population of 28 households living in individually owned housing units in seven buildings of either two- and three-bedroom flats or townhouses with two, three or four bedrooms. Parking would line the west side of the property, farthest away from the river.

The common house would sit in the middle of the property, with a large meadow, including a garden, adjacent to the Willamette Greenway with its bicycle path and wooded area along the river.

The idea for Oakleigh Meadow began to grow about four years ago when one of the founding couples, David Adee and Joan Connolly, bought the vacant property next to their own house.

"I have lived in Eugene since 1985 and on the lane since 1989," Connolly said. "First we had a small house that we outgrew, and then we bought the one where we live now. We always wondered what would happen to the land next to us if it were ever sold, so when it came on the market four years ago we decided we should buy it."

They thought of several possibilities for using the land, "but when the idea of cohousing came up, it just lit a spark," she said. "All of a sudden, there was cohesion and energy and interest from people who shared the idea of living together in that kind of community."

In fact, they already lived in an informal cohousing arrangement, "where we had holes through our fences so the chickens and kids and dogs could go back and forth to each others' houses," Adee said. "It was such a nice way to live among neighbors; we wanted to expand on that."

They also wanted to make it so the river was accessible to all, not barred by rigid property lines and fences.

"At that time, it was a rather unsavory area, and it was not possible to get to the bike path and the river," Connolly said. "We cleaned it all out and reconnected it to the river. We have even had lots of work parties with volunteer groups to help the city rehabilitate the Greenway area as well as our own property."

Some opposition

The cohousing proposal does not have unanimous support in the neighborhood, however. Along the length of Oakleigh Lane, there are handwritten signs declaring adjacent property owners' opposition to the project.

Scott Gould, who lives along the lane, doesn't have a sign, but he said he's "pretty much in opposition," even though the proposal meets the requirements of land use plans for the area in terms of allowed uses and density.

"We live on a dead-end street, and lots of people have children and don't want to have to worry about them in the street," Gould said.

"Initially, they were talking about 10 or so units, and now it's up to 28. That will increase traffic on the street by about 65 percent. There are bald eagles and other wildlife here along the river, and I don't want to see that taken away."

There are pluses and minuses to the Oakleigh Meadow project, Gould said, adding that he would prefer cohousing to some other kind of development, such as condos. But he'd rather see no development at all.

Even if approved by the city, it will take quite some time to see buildings on the site of the proposed project.

"We make all of our decisions by consensus, and that can take a long time to develop," said Fischrup.

"We have workshops to do everything that needs to be done, such as establishing the site plan and designing the common house, then designing the five floor plans of the individual homes. That was all in preparation for applying for the planned unit development. We still have a lot more work to do."

They also need about 10 more households committed to the project in order to have the funds to start construction.

People interested in cohousing first join the group as associate members, attending regular meetings and becoming involved on one or more committees - membership, finance, design, process, marketing - before deciding whether to join the group as a full member, Fischrup said.

Oakleigh Lane Cohousing holds an open house from 10 a.m. to noon on the third Sunday of each month to meet with potential members.

Those who decide to become part of the cohousing project pay a $500 buy-in fee and then begin making regular payments toward joint costs and what eventually becomes a 20 percent down payment on their own housing units, with the rest covered by a conventional mortgage, Fischrup said.

The Oakleigh Meadow group received initial advice from architects Charles Durrett and his wife, Kathryn McCamant, of Nevada City, Calif., who coined the term "cohousing" and have designed more than 50 cohousing projects throughout North America.

"They literally wrote the book on cohousing, and they've been very helpful or we wouldn't be as far along as we are," Fischrup said. "They really helped us avoid a lot of problems and streamline our process."


Oakleigh Meadow Cohousing planned unit development application

When: 5 p.m. Oct. 2

Where: Sloat Room, Atrium Building, 99 W. 10th Ave.
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Title Annotation:Housing
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Sep 23, 2013
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