Does Puyallup Cohousing have developable land?

Yes.  Mike, the founding member of the group, owns a ~17 acre farm consisting of 3 tax parcels.  The 4 acre and the 6.75 acre parcel are zoned for medium residential development.  Both of these parcels are currently in unincorporated Pierce County but are within the City of Puyallup’s Urban Growth Boundary. Mike will serve in the role of “patient, cohousing-friendly landlord” until the group is ready to buy the land. 

How do you know it’s developable?

We’ve been working with a local Civil Engineer on a feasibility study for development. Several engineering studies were completed in 2021-22 including: Wetlands, Septic,  and GeoTech.  The local water company has provided a ‘Certificate of Water Availability’.

We had our first meeting with representatives from Pierce County Development Engineering, Zoning, Fire, and Health on March 23rd, 2022 to get their feedback on our assumptions to make sure that there are no barriers to a clustered cohousing development.  They gave us very positive feedback and suggested the next round of studies for us to pursue.

Those suggestions led to our second meeting with Pierce County.  We met with representatives from Development Engineering and Traffic on May 15th, 2023 to discuss road access. The County was supportive of the recomendations for road improvements made in our Traffic study.

What size community do we envision?

TBD: The county confirmed that a maximum density of 4 units per acre on septic, or 43 units on the combined 10.75 acres will be allowed.  (Sewer is not currently available.)  It will be up to the group as to how we develop the community once we grow to a critical mass. It has been suggested that the social dynamics work better if we consider building two smaller communities rather than one large community. 40-50 adults per community is frequently suggested as a ‘sweet-spot’ for fostering community.

What is on the land right now?

Dirt.  The land has been a farm since at least WWII, historically growing raspberries. Labor shortages have led to switching to a mix of annual crops like corn, beans or pumpkins in the last few years.  See the movie on the homepage and the pictures on ‘the land’ tab to take a look.

Are there any issues with proximity to the Puyallup River?

The 10.75 acres on the two developable parcels are not within any regulated floodplain or floodway areas and contain no wetlands.  The extreme northeast corner of the 4 acre parcel is within 200 feet of a wetlands boundary, which may require an extra shoreline study.

The remaining 3rd parcel borders the Puyallup River for about 800 feet but is not developable due to being zoned for agriculture only.  There is an existing single family house on this parcel along with about 2 acres of plowed fields, with the remainder dominated by wetlands along the Puyallup River.

We have been in contact with the Pierce County Conservation District to evaluate two schemes on this parcel. One scheme that we have already started is to rebuild the tired soil with cover crops for a few years.  This farmed area could make a really nice community garden, CSA, food forest, or park with a little TLC.  We have also been in contact with a riparian restoration specialist from PCCD with a VERY speculative plan to explore the creation of salmon spawning habitat in the wetlands bordering the property.

Are there any other known issues with the land?

The land has been actively farmed for many years.  There are no known threatened or endangered plant or animal species, historical buildings, contamination, tribal issues or the like. Engineering studies suggest that the soils are excellent, both structurally and for septic.  There is a right-of-way easement for a gas pipeline on the NW corner of the 6.75 acre parcel; crops are OK but no buildings are allowed on the right-of-way.

How about the neighborhood?

East of the property is zoned for low density residential.

South of the property shares our zoning of medium density residential.  

North of the 4 ac parcel is a steep drop to wetlands along the Puyallup River and not developable. North of the 6.75 ac parcel is part of the warehouse project to the West.

The ~162 acres to the West is zoned for ’employment center’ and current plans are for 7 large warehouses.  This warehouse development is in the planning phase and has been the subject of much discussion over the last 9 years. The City of Puyallup is leading an Environmental Impact Statement. The comment period for the first draft ended on Mar 15, 2024.  The final EIS is anticipated to be published in late 2024.  Much more information is available on the City of Puyallup’s website at: https://knutsonfarmseis.org

Any regional issues?

The Pacific Northwest has produced some truly spectacular earthquakes and volcanic eruptions in the last several centuries. If you are concerned about either of these events happening in your lifetime, the Pacific Northwest is probably not the place you want to set down roots.  Should Mt Rainier have an eruption of similar magnitude to that of Mt St. Helens, it is possible that a lahar would flow through the Puyallup Valley where the farm is located.

Do we have a target budget? Timeline?

No.  We anticipate partnering with development professionals to establish a budget and timeline in late 2024 after we get consent on things like legal structure, site plan, common house design, and unit layouts. It is not unusual for cohousing projects to take 3-5 years from core group formation to occupancy, and some take much longer.

What is our governance strategy?

We have decided to adopt sociocracy as our decision making and governance strategy. Sociocracy ensures that all voices are heard in a non-hierarchical, consent-based decision making process.  Decisions are delegated to small teams who create well thought out proposals that are sent to the larger group for approval or modification.  We will be asking all members to educate themselves at the website: https://www.sociocracyforall.org/

What is our legal structure?

We have created a legal entity called “PC Hops Development, LLC”.  In a standard cohousing condominium development, this LLC would buy the land, finance the construction loan,  and contract with all of the various professionals to manage and build the project.  The development LLC would then sell the units to the new owners and their HOA before terminating.

In addition to the condo/HOA model, we have begun to explore other alternative legal structures such as a land trust or a limited equity co-operative that might be more suitable to our objectives of accessibility and affordability.

How do we intend to resolve disagreements?

We have standardized on a book called “Nonviolent Communication, A Language of Life” by Marshall Rosenberg.  We are experimenting on how to use the ideas and techniques in our group interactions. 

What are the finer points about membership?

What if I have questions and I don’t want to take up time in the general meetings?

We are currently using the Sociocracy proposal forming process to design a “Buddy” system. When that is complete, Visitors will have a contact person to answer your questions, and to help you understand how we do things. Our weekly general meeting is held from 5:30pm-7:00pm on Mondays using Zoom. We encourage newer folks to hang around after the meeting to socialize and ask questions. You also are free to email any of us at any time if you have questions or comments.

Are my dues refundable if I decide not to join?

No. Dues payments are used for the many expenses of forming a community, to pay our Cohousing US membership, attorneys and other consultants, printing costs, and more. They are not refundable.

If I become an Explorer or Friend, can I change my mind later and switch?

Yes. Switching membership status is always possible. Just contact the Membership Work Group to work out the details.

How do I pay my dues?

Puyallup Cohousing’s LLC has established a bank account at Boeing Employees Credit Union. We’re trying to find a way that minimizes the time that a volunteer needs to spend doing banking and accounting for the group.  We’ll likely be asking people to use online banking at their home bank to transfer dues to our BECU account.

When are dues due?

Dues should be paid during the first week of each quarter. Quarters begin on January 1, April 1, July 1, and October 1.

What if I join during the middle of a quarter, rather than at the beginning. Do I pay for the full quarter?

Your dues for your first quarter of Explorership will be prorated at a daily rate for that quarter.

What happens to my priority home selection date if I don’t become a Full Member within 6 weeks of that being available?

These details have not been worked out yet, but the dates will most likely just be pushed forward, based on when you do become a Full Member.