PT 'EcoVillage' planned - Goal is affordable, environmentally sensitive housing

By Barney Burke
Port Townsend Leader Staff Writer


Port Townsend, WA - A group of potential neighbors has been meeting for the last two months to discuss plans for an affordable, environmentally sensitive development next door to the RoseWind development in Port Townsend.

The 7.5-acre site is owned by Port Townsend Councilor Kees Kolff and his wife, Helen. "We don't see ourselves in the driver's seat," says Kees Kolff. Instead, the couple has been developing plans in conjunction with about three dozen people who have expressed interest in living in what is sometimes known as an "ecovillage."

Kolff referenced a website,, that highlights some of the ideas the group is interested in. "We want to experiment with ways to make things more sustainable," he explained. That might entail alternative building materials such as straw bales, solar and wind energy, and "graywater" systems.

The group is taking at least one cue from the city's cottage ordinance: limiting the size of individual dwelling units to 1,200 square feet. That will help make the development more affordable, he said. The property can likely hold 20 units, he estimated, and they might take the form of anything from single family homes to duplexes, with opportunities for renting as well as owning, he added.

Cohousing is similar to a condominium development, said Kolff, in that some assets are jointly owned. The initial concept is to devote two acres of the site to agriculture. "We might grow a significant portion of our own food," he said.

Following the RoseWind model, the Kolffs - with consensus of all of the interested participants, he emphasized - would obtain a planned unit development (PUD) permit from the city and then sell off lots to those who want to be part of the new neighborhood. Kees Kolff said the group doesn't expect to have its design proposal ready for formal city review until the end of 2004.

Among those who have been participating in the group are local building contractor Malcolm Dorn, who raised crops on the site years ago. "I like the modesty of it," he said, explaining that smaller dwellings are generally more affordable. The project is intended to be at least "loosely eco-friendly," he said, which should reduce unnecessary consumption of resources.

Another interested person is fellow contractor Doug Milholland, who, like the Kolffs, lives in RoseWind. With his kids grown up, Milholland thinks it might be time to downsize from a 2,000-square-foot home in RoseWind. "It's going to work for people who aren't wealthy," he said.

Deb Wiese, who moved to town last fall as a VISTA volunteer with Habitat for Humanity, says the concept appeals to her because it's like the neighborhood where she grew up in Wisconsin. "All the adults knew all the children," she said, hoping that a development planned around people instead of cars would have more social interaction.

Anyone who is interested in finding out more about the project is encouraged to telephone the Kolffs at 379-4858.

City records indicate that Kolff met with city staff to discuss the idea in 2001, before he was elected. In February 2002, the newly elected councilor formally advised the city that he was the property owner. In July 2003, Kolff was advised to arrange a "tech conference" where staff normally addresses site-specific questions about proposed developments. Last week, Kolff was advised that the project has evolved to the point where a new tech conference is warranted.

In accordance with a directive issued by City Manager David Timmons in February 2001, all projects involving councilors or himself are handled by outside reviewers, not city staff.

(Contact Barney Burke at



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