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Seeking Community in Western Washington  RSS feed

 
Roan Poulter
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Unrehabilitated consumer driven couple seeks a place to call home in the Western Washington area. We toured a few IC's while we were on a 12 month trip around the country, but were found wanting and not invited back into the hippie fold. Do we need training on how to live a life in tune with anything but the number of Facebook likes our witty posts get, yes, but I like to think we're willing to learn. We recently sold our house and most of the things inside it with the express hope of living a simpler life. I am desperate to trade in my cubicle for a patch of green pasture and the freedom to roam it. We have a couple of friends who are on the same path, or are at least heading in the same general direction. Who knew that simplifying would be so complicated.

If anyone has ideas on a property that would work for 3-6 families, we would appreciate it.

I would love to just buy raw land, but the legal hoops and zoning intricacies to build multiple homes on one property are beyond my limited understanding. Also what an intentional community is seems to vary widely, from $400K lots in a "farm", to mud huts in an abandoned salt mine where you must have dirty feet and sing a song to the Goddess of food before being allowed to eat. I'm hoping for a simple way, an affordable living style that has room for the occasional iPhone or fashionable scarf. Houses that are modest and without pretense, but where you don't have to poop in a bucket. Is there a middle ground between the extremes?

Well, I've rambled enough for now.
 
Tom OHern
Posts: 236
Location: Seattle, WA
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Hi Roan,

I'm another who is looking to ditch the cubicle and find a nice patch of land in Western Washington. I currently own a home in Seattle, but have been looking for a similar piece of property for a few years. The Wa State Growth Management Act really did a number on people wanting to start communities like this. Each county has their own rules on zoning, so you almost have to pick a few counties that you are interested in and learn their zoning rules. I spent a few years as a real estate agent, so I had a bit of a head start in learning the local regulations, but it still doesn't make it easy. Let me know if I can help in your search in anyway! Good Luck.
 
Roan Poulter
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Tom,

Any idea which counties are better than other's? Also, is it easier if there is already a house on the property? Are some zoning types better than others, I know about R-5 versus R-20, but deeper than that I don't. Could you build small homes on an RV park? Could you make an RV park on Residential land?

Lots of questions, any help from anyone is appreciated.
 
Tom OHern
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Location: Seattle, WA
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I wouldn't say any county is better than other, just that they have different zoning regulations. For instance, if you were to do a search for "grays harbor county zoning" you would end up at their zoneing document:

http://www.co.grays-harbor.wa.us/info/pub_svcs/GHCCode/pdf/GHC17.pdf

In that document, you can find all the "permitted uses", "conditional uses" and "Prohibited uses". These will detail out what zoning will allow things like Accessory Dwelling Units, RV parks, Multi-family dwellings, etc. You'll see things like in the RURAL RESIDENTIAL DISTRICT section, you are allowed to have Mobile and RV parks in some circumstances, as well as one dwelling unit per acre.

It isn't necessarily easier if there is an existing house other than it is one less building you need to get permitted. And if you can convert an already existing building into a multifamily dwelling, that can simplify some things. But sometimes an existing house will be situated in such a way that you would not be able to create additional building lots (which is based on Building site verbiage in the zoning doc). It can be a blessing or a curse.

In general though, the more rural a county, the better availability of lots that have not already been carved up to the maximum extent. Those rural county planning departments are generally open to you calling them up and saying something like "I'm looking for a property where I can build two or three homes for me, my parents, and possibly my adult children, and wanted to know which zoning I should be looking at?" As long as you don't make it sound like you are trying to create some sort of militant survival retreat, they will be helpful. Then if you can find a property where you can build two or three homes, and find a similar property near by, you can get your 4 to 6 houses in a relatively close proximity.
 
Roan Poulter
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Would you reccomend Gray's Harbor county? I found some land there, looks like the electrical access might be difficult, but a nice piece for our little group. One of the tax ID's on it is under the 5 acre minimum, does that mean you couldn't build a house on it? Reading through the GHC plan it sounds like they don't allow you to build on less than a 5 acre parcel.
 
Tom OHern
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Location: Seattle, WA
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I like a lot of things about Grays Harbor county. Usually, they will approve building permits on existing tax lots even if they are less than the required lot size as long as you are able to build withing the required lot line set backs. But that is a scenario where you would definitely want to call the planning department because I've seen lots where they will not approve. Grays Harbor is one of the counties that doesn't have their critical areas (wetlands, flood zones, landslide areas, etc) availible as an online map, so you should ask about those sorts of things when you talk to them also.
 
Nicole Alderman
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Location: Pacific Northwest
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Maybe look into making a rural cluster subdivision? I don't know much about them, especially not how hard they would be to arrange, but there are quite a few that are around my area (which is zoned for 5+ acre plots). From what I've seen, the houses are on 1/4-1/2 acre plots with protected areas (great for very subtle wildcrafting, I'd think), shared open spaces, and often timber land. Here's some links about them:

http://snohomishcountywa.gov/DocumentCenter/View/8104

This is a Q and A about them:

http://snohomish.granicus.com/MetaViewer.php?view_id=2&clip_id=762&meta_id=51127

I don't know how many counties allow for these, though...
 
John Rogers
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Roan Poulter wrote:Would you reccomend Gray's Harbor county?

Closer to Olympia = less rain. Closer to Quinault or the coast = more rain. Anywhere in the county = quite a bit of rain. I've lived in Grayland and Elma, and the well water sucked at both locations. I'm not up on the zoning, but I don't think there's a county wide five acre minimum.
 
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