Cohousing Community Breaks Ground in Bethany

Creating a sustainable, interconnected community was the driving force behind the first cohousing community in Connecticut. Actively seeking families, singles and couples of all ages as new members, Rocky Corner (RockyCorner.org) began construction on the new community on May 1 with a groundbreaking ceremony on May 22. It is being built on a 33-acre former dairy farm in rural Bethany, about 20 minutes from downtown New Haven. Plans include a pedestrian-centered, multi-generational neighborhood of 30 private homes; a common house for shared facilities; and land for recreation, family gardens and organic farming. By creating an interactive, sustainable community from the beginning, Rocky Corner’s founders hope to follow through with their mission to minimize consumption of natural resources and balance farming and community life with wildlife habitat preservation. All homes are expected to be completed by June 2019.

The buildings at Rocky Corner will be brand new, Energy Star-recognized structures. Some of the features include passive solar compact homes with low energy and maintenance costs, and an “aging in place” layout with a bedroom and bath on every first floor. The homes will be heavily insulated with raft slab foundations and no basements for better energy efficiency. There are one, two, three and four-bedroom cape-style options available with customizable features and layout. Affordable housing subsidies are also available for those who qualify. Rocky Corner’s Dick Margulis explains that 50 percent of the community’s carbon footprint will be reduced by car and common space sharing and interactions within the community.

Working with Centerbrook Architects and Planners (Centerbrook.com) in Centerbrook, the focus of Rocky Corner’s founding group members was on fostering human interaction by design. Some features of the neighborhood include room to garden, play, hike, cross country ski, ride horses and walk dogs. The multi-generational emphasis lends a village and family feel to the community. The layout is walkable, accessible for those with mobility issues and/or disabilities, and pedestrian-centered with parking on a perimeter ring driveway. Community gardens, edible landscaping in the courtyards and wildlife habitat exemplify the space’s ecology focus. And a working organic farm started by some of the Rocky Corner co-founding team will supply lots of the neighborhood’s food; however, work on the farm isn’t required. The “it takes a village” appeal is also seen with a teaching and learning component; they value and welcome all backgrounds, skills and interests.

The common house, one of the first structures to be erected at Rocky Corner, will be a large building for cooking and eating together, performances, dancing, woodworking, arts and crafts, meeting space, children’s play space, and laundry. It will also have quiet space for relaxing, playing games, listening to music, or lounging next to the masonry heater.

As for the location, Rocky Corner is a 15-minute drive to downtown New Haven and 10 minutes to an Amtrak station. It is located in a top school district with Bethany Community School, and Amity Regional Junior and Senior High Schools.

As a cohousing community, Rocky Corner’s leadership style stands out with its dynamic governance model.  “Dynamic governance is a sustainable way of living because everyone has access to power. There is an equivalence of voice and an interaction with the community. Decisions are made by consent, not by consensus,” Margulis states. In addition, the governance model enables any member to propose a use of land or space to the whole community with the appropriate financing provided by the individual or group. As a community, all members decide if proposals are good enough for now, safe enough to try, and the timeline and criteria for evaluating the proposed project depending on the amount of risk involved.

Now is the phase for choosing homes as the community breaks ground. To be kept abreast with updates, sign up for their mailing list on their website; email questions to Welcome@RockyCorner.org; check their Facebook page and blog; or attend an information session, business meeting or social event.

Some of the upcoming events include a Rocky Corner potluck and committee reports meeting on June 3 (5-7:30 p.m.) and a Business Meeting on June 24 (6-8:30 p.m.). June information sessions will be held on June 4 and 13 in Hamden, June 9 (10:30 a.m.) in Bethany, and June 23 (10:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.) in Fairfield.

For more information or find out how to get involved, attend one of Rocky Corner’s public information sessions, visit RockyCorner.org or email Welcome@RockyCorner.org.