Belfast Cohousing & Ecovillage won preliminary approval from the Planning Board March 24, and while City Planner Wayne Marshall said there are many small details to hammer out between now and the final approval, he did not foresee any of these jeopardizing the project.

The development, to be built on a 30-acre former dairy farm off Tufts Road in Belfast, was designed with community and environmental sustainability in mind.

Drawings approved by the Planning Board include 36 private residences located in 16 structures and a common house that would be shared by residents, and according to project literature, could include a commercial kitchen, dining room, guest rooms, office space, workshops, laundry and a children’s playroom.

Residences would range in size from 440 square feet to 1,300 square feet and be clustered in groups of two and three units. Plans call for 12 two-bedroom and 14 three-bedroom units.

Sanna McKim, project coordinator of Belfast Cohousing & Ecovillage, said financing is one of the biggest issues that remains for the group. The development is owned by a limited liability company made up of 28 equity members, each of which represents a household that intends to buy a home in the completed cohousing village.

Equity members have put in $10,000 to cover upfront costs of the project. Belfast Cohousing also offers $250 “exploring” memberships for people interested in the project, but not ready to commit.

McKim said she doesn’t know yet if the project will have to be 100 percent pre-sold to secure additional financing.

Much of the basic concept of the project, McKim said, was borrowed from successful cohousing communities in other parts of the country, primarily west of the Rocky Mountains.

The Belfast homes, designed by G-O Logic, will be super-insulated to retain passive solar warmth and require a minimum of heating from fossil fuel, electricity or wood. McKim said the group is still debating what sort of fuel will be used. As an example of how much energy would be needed, she said a seven-foot baseboard heater would be able to heat an entire home in the new development.

Marshall noted that many parts of the project are atypical of subdivisions in Belfast. The 36 units would be packed into three of the 30 acres, which Marshall described as applying an urban density to a rural development. Under cohousing principles, densely clustered houses foster community interaction while allowing for a maximum of open space for farming and recreation.

The 36 units would share four wells and three septic systems, the largest of which, handling in excess of 2,000 gallons, would have to be built by a civil engineer and conform to state standards. The development would also use catch basins to move storm water, which Marshall said is more typical of an urban development.

“If this actually comes together as they propose,” Marshall said of the plan to construct and sell all 36 units within two years, “it would be the first subdivision in Belfast of this nature that’s ever achieved this degree of success.” The city planner then qualified his statement, saying that it would be the first in more than 20 years, though the caveat seemed more out of caution than doubt.

Marshall also noted that this would be only the second cohousing project to be built in Maine, and the largest. The first, Two Echo Cohousing in Brunswick, was built in 1992 and comprises 27 residences.

“It would be a phenomenal success story,” Marshall said.