putney commons gatheringAnne Fines is an educator who has lived in this town for over fifty years.  As she looked at getting older, she imagined living in a small community within the village of Putney, both vital within itself and nourishing the life of the larger town.  She imagined a perfect site with three criteria:  south facing, easy access to the village, and a sense of privacy.  As she shared her vision with others, they banded together to purchase eleven acres with a south-facing field just off Main Street. When some of the original partners chose new directions, others came to take their place.

The next stage of planning began with participants exploring where, how, and what to build. Chip Greenberg, a local architect, and Michael Wells, a local builder, joined the Commoners in their project.  Locals working with locals characterized the spirit of the project.

Together, they developed a site plan with three clustered units of three homes each and a common house on the northern end of the field, leaving wild the remaining eight acres of woods.  Rick Derrig, a local excavator, cleared and saved topsoil for future use in gardens.  With infrastructure set in place, Commoners—Anne Fines, Joan Benneyan, Cheryl Wilfong, Faith Pepe, Tim Cowles, and Elizabeth Christie — broke ground in July, 2007.  In May, 2008, El Dearborn joined the group, buying Faith Pepe’s partially built home.

With six owners building, the first two clusters began to rise in the meadow, each cluster sharing a single cement pad.  The houses have a common external look, but the interior designs express a collaboration of owner, architect, and builder.  The owners developed a Book of Commons to identify and spell out guidelines for the community, continuing to use consensus decision making throughout.