As we wait a bit longer for our super exciting, special-order snapties to arrive (note: these are little pieces of metal used to help build concrete walls), I thought I’d share a bit more about where we’re building.

Four years ago when we bought the lot we’re building upon, we weren’t in the market for land. We were happily renovating away on our almost 100-year-old house in a great neighborhood on Spokane’s South Hill.

But then we saw the land. As the kids might text, “OMG!”

Our neighborhood is unique for our region. As far as I know, it’s the only “clustered” development in the Spokane area. I had read about other clustered developments with envy. There are a couple of especially cool ones in Minnesota, including Mayo Woodlands and Jackson Meadows.

Here’s how a “cluster” philosophy works. We have eight families on 100 acres of land. While it would be nice (in a way) to have a 12.5 acre lot, in other ways it would be unfortunate. Here’s why:

  • At 12.5 acres you have some space around you, but lose any sense of having neighbors or community.
  • You also lose the open space–the chance to have trails, wildlife corridors, etc.
  • Think about the infrastructure. It means long, long driveways, 8 separate wells, problematic utility trenching…you get the idea.
  • There’s the idea of living alone in the woods and the reality of living alone in the woods–I think we like the idea better than we would the reality. We like neighbors, community, the security of being around others, etc.

With a clustered development, you get the reverse–lots of open space, an encouraged sense of community, shared infrastructure, potential for things like trail networks, gardens, etc.

So…we jumped in feet first (head first?) and bought the land. Our covenants document is about an inch thick, but it’s really a document about philosophy rather than mandates. These are pretty limited in fact. Max house size is 3,500 square feet, no pools, 35′ height limit, no fences or walls that enclose the property, no wood roofs (fire danger), etc. Pretty tame stuff, really.

Today there are eight lots (with one that just came up for sale…) of 1.9 acres each. To me, this is plenty of space–our lot is about 500 feet wide. We’ll have a sense of our neighbors’ houses, but won’t see them from any of our windows. We’re building a trail network, have a beautiful little community garden, and the neighbors are all very…neighborly. This is a good thing.

If you do the math you’ll realize that this leaves us with 85 acres of “common” land. We’ve put this into a conservation easement, which among many other benefits changes its tax status. Nice.

We’re sharing a driveway, well and utility infrastructure with one neighbor, and already appreciate the camaraderie between the families. Plus, two of our best friends (and their growing brood) live two doors down.

Still, one of my work partners likes to joke that we’re putting the commune in community. She’s mostly kidding though.

I have a plat map somewhere that shows the lots and common areas, which I’ll track down sometime if anyone is interested. Let me know.