NC Triangle Cohousing – Part 2/4: Solterra

This article is part of a 4-part series. In it, we give you the rundown from our visit to Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill NC during the 2017 National Cohousing Open House, presented by Coho/US. To read other parts in the series, please see the bottom of the page for links. 

Solterra Cohousing

From their site:

Solterra is cohousing with a difference. Most of our homes are single-family stand-alone dwellings which have been individually planned by the owners and their designers. Each house is unique and caters to the lifestyle of its residents. An Architectural Review Board oversees placement on the site as well as other aspects of exteriors, but owners have wide latitude in the kind of house they build. There is a strong emphasis on passive solar design, and placement of houses is such that no one obstructs their neighbors access to solar energy. There are 36 families in residence. At buildout, there will be 37 families. Each member family owns a deeded lot, and a share of the common land. Houses range in size from about 1300 s.f. to 3200 s.f.

Every  house has direct car access from a road that surrounds the developed area of the property. The uses are arranged in three groupings with each having access to a footpath that connects all the houses and the common spaces through the meadows and woods. The common areas include play spaces, picnic tables, a tree house, swings, a Common House and a large organic garden we call the garden of eatin’.

After lunch, we drove out to Solterra. Nestled a little further into the countryside, Solterra was formed in the early 90s, with a semi-cohousing feel. While they encourage the interconnectedness of cohousing, they value individuality and personal space. Situated on 20 gorgeous acres, Solterra’s homes are all stylish and unique, and their clubhouse – where you take off your shoes at the front door – feels like home. There’s a feeling of space and breathing room there, with comfortably-blurred lines between private and common space. We were happy to hear about their twice-a-week meals that they have been able to maintain, a Sunday evening potluck, and a Tuesday “Cantina night”, where the cooking duties are rotated among a group of families.

The Garden of Eatin’ was lush and thriving in the sun, with a large gazebo in the center, where you can pull up a chair and take a break with whoever else is out that day. Just on the other side of the garden is their dog park area. Since a few residents have roaming chickens (a plus for some, a minus for others), the dog park offers a safe space for off-leash running. Pets are another one of those community aspects that have to be carefully and fairly managed.

Because each home was custom-built, they’re all 100% unique, and we only toured one home on the site. A gravel path wound through the grounds, and connected each yard at the back of their property. We made it to the Garden of Eatin’ for a rest, and one resident who’d come out to work her individual plot told the kids they could pick some strawberries. We took a load off under the garden gazebo, before we went back to the common house to talk details.

Brand Fortner was our contact, and the man with the skinny on that style of community living. He told us all about their triumphs and pitfalls over the years. All of the community hosts had something to say about member participation. It’s hard to decide how much participation should be required of any member household, if any, and it’s harder to get a whole group of people to decide what is equitable and fair.

They currently have a few homes for sale, so if this exurban style of cohousing appeals to you, check out their site!

Click below to jump to part(s) 1, 3 & 4

Part 1: Durham Central Park Cohousing

Part 3: Arcadia

Part 4: Pacifica

The Takeaway + Bonus Tips

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