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  • Rhonda Rosenheck

Happiness, Hoops, Helpers and a Handful of Beans: Part II


Are happiness or building projects ever achieved without stumbling through hoops? Here’s a story of being often guided – and sometimes let down—by helpers, all the while sowing magic beans and waiting to see what comes up. It is no fairytale.

The hoop-jumping for Poet’s Perch Writer’s Retreat was intense. I needed patience, time, flexibility – and beans. I had to demonstrate, through honest, inspiring communication, how my Tiny Home on Wheels (THOW) would enhance livability on Heartt Avenue. The Albany County Land Bank (ACLB) would allow me to purchase 110 Heart Avenue as long as the City of Cohoes approved my plan; but – Catch 22 - Cohoes could not approve a project on land I did not own. Despite the chicken vs. egg situation, I got the Poet’s Perch onto the ACLB calendar and approached the Cohoes Planning Board.

I taught Board members about THOWs and reading gardens; they taught me about the concerns of a Planning Board. I’d come with site plan, architectural and landscape renderings, concept images, and a written description of the intended mix of uses. Although encouraging, members probed every aspect of the project… there were questions I could not answer.

Luckily, the ACLB tabled decisions on the lot for another month while my structural engineer worked on the details and safety specs. The Board was satisfied with the revised proposal. The city planner let the ACLB know that if they sold me the land, Cohoes was inclined to give my proposal a thumbs up. Three decision-making panel reviews later, the ACLB agreed to sell me the land, leaving me to easily leap through the ordinary hoops of property purchase.

At my third city Planning Board meeting, members voted to approve. I thanked them and said, “You all knew that this would be the first THOW project in Cohoes. What you may not have known is that it’s also the first in the region. You’ve made history!”

Mission Accomplished? Not so fast.

I had to request variances from the city’s Zoning Board. Some members had doubts about what they envisioned as a trashy mobile home and a nuisance magnet but the board chair focused on the variances themselves. My on-the-spot proposal of a solution to one of the issues was accepted.

Poet’s Perch was approved and ready to go. Except for receiving a building permit. Which. Just. Took. Time. By then, my contractor scarpered and the ground froze. Utilities could not be run or the parking pad laid until spring. Today, the THOW shell remains in storage while I get creative. I’m putting contractors through hoops to bid on the job I hope they will have time for in 2022. I am also looking for completed THOWS for sale that I could use to accomplish my dreams, while hoping someone else could DIY my shell into completion.

As for the handful of beans? Every presentation, action, and delay cost money. The price of materials has skyrocketed. And I keep reworking my magic to keep the budgeted handful of beans from multiplying out of control. In spring, we’ll see what comes up.

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Small lot, tiny house, big impact !

The Diary of a Poet's Vision for a very special writing retreat