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Is this community idea feasible?  RSS feed

 
Kyle Redden
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I'm currently saving for land with the intention of purchasing in 1 to 1 1/2 years. Simple, sustainable living is one reason. The second is that I want to help solve some of the problems in the world (pollution, unhealthy crop/animal cultivation, nuclear meltdowns, and overall destructive behavior). The third reason is to take as much control of my life as I can because of our broken systems in America. After deciding to do this I started wondering would other people want in on this? Well it just so happens they do! There are anywhere between 50 to 150 interested after about 3 weeks of putting the idea out there.

We still need to decide on pretty much everything like location, voting method, etc. The general idea for location is to build in a state/county with minimal permitting/laws/regulations outside of city limits. We're wanting to build affordably and sustainably so we're leaning towards cob/strawbale houses. We want to eventually take care of all of our needs and then some including food, energy, building materials, child education etc.

As of what I've said so far this is a typical intentional community. Here's where it starts to deviate. One of the biggest issues I see in society is the belief that land is something to be owned, divided, and treated as a commodity. I feel the earth is plentiful enough for it to be shared with everyone. People, plants, and the rest of the animal kingdom. So how can we live by that ideal? In America, we have to play in the system to change it. You have to buy land plain and simple, as I am. But in buying the land I'm doing it so I can give it back to the people, us. After the land is purchased, we start becoming more self efficient, and make some extra funds to do with what we please; then we can start on the next and I think one of the most important parts of the community... we can help people that want to step into our way of life that don't have the funds do so do it. I feel many of the communities truly do have good intentions, but for most people that are interested in trying this alternative lifestyle simply don't have the funds. Having joining fees, maintenance fees, and the like just makes it harder for them. If we put the extra work in so we can take care of ourselves AND also help new residents build homes/integrate into the community, then we're not only making a difference by living sustainably.... we're making it possible for others to do the same. With building for instance cob homes, acquiring most if not all materials on site would make the biggest cost for building a new resident's home the sweat on our backs.

If this works out, then it would be an awesome next step to help groups or extensions of are own to start other communities so we can spread the love (hopefully close to our area). The first question is, how viable do you guys feel setting the community up in a way that it can take on new residents without charging them to move in?

The second part I wanted to talk about was another possible step to making real change. One of the reasons for moving to the kind of area specified above is so we can create a city (to take charge of our city laws, then take over our lowly populated county by majority vote. There's obvious reasons for wanting to have authority over our city and county laws. In Texas for instance, the county is delegated the power of collecting property tax. If we have control of the county, we can do away with property tax in our area! I'm sure many if not all of you in the US despise property tax as much as we do. We'd have to make budget cuts, but we can do so in ways that it isn't unreasonably harmful to the county compared to the benefits of actually owning your own land. To take over the county (even if it has a couple thousand active voters), we'll need to network with other potential communities to have them move to our county (possibly our city). After we make the area much more hospitable for alternative living, it can become not only a safehaven to intentional communities, permaculturists, etc, it will also be an example to others... something that is repeatable.

So the second question is, is this idea of majority voting our way into county power feasible?

I do believe these are very possible and doable ways to make positive change. I just respect many of the voices here on this forum (I've been lurking for years) and I would like some honest, but critical criticism. Sorry for the longer post, I actually minimized it as much as possible.
 
John Saltveit
gardener
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I think there are some very interesting ideas here. In general, if you are ready to start a community in a rural area, you probably want to choose a region. The regional forums of permies are good for that.

If you state your other preferences, people are more likely to want to communicate with you about seeing if you might collaborate together. For example some people are vegans, religious, gun users, musicians, rooster owners, artists, poets, partiers, preppers/survivalists, activists, and some people are not, so by communicating that, people could see if they are aligned with you.

In trying to abolish the property tax, you are going to have to find a way to pave roads, do construction, pay for fire and police, and educate children. You probably want some kind of a plan for that if you are going to undo hundreds of years of history and tradition.

I hope that you find a way to make your dream come true,
John S
PDX OR
 
Kyle Redden
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We are still in the beginning stages of decision making. We're about to start discussing our voting methods. After we decide that then the next topic will most likely be location.

We haven't decided if we are going as far as networking with other groups yet, as we are still in the developmental stages of the community. (Can't decide much of anything until we choose a voting method)

I agree that abolishing property tax in a county will take careful planning, consideration, legal counseling, and the like. It isn't something that will be done with no forethought.
 
Miles Flansburg
steward
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Location: Zones 2-4 Wyoming and 4-5 Colorado
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Howdy Kyle, welcome to permies!

If you can get a copy of Bill Mollisons book " permaculture a designers manual" The last chapter is all about building communities. I was suprised by Bills thoughts on Government and funding.
I think you will find it valuable too.

Not sure if you have ever heard of the free state projects? One of the goals was to get enough folks to move to one county and run members for government offices. Seems to have made a dent in New Hampshire.

Here is a thread I started about that.

http://www.permies.com/t/20307/community/Free-Permaculture-State
 
Queenie Hankinson
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Kyle--we are looking for land in TN and note some of the counties are more open to the idea of alternative building. We trend more toward earth bag homes instead of strawbale because strawbale often requires a wood substrate/ infrastructure and also somewhat more skilled labor. IMO the most important issues to consider are not only the land and the regulations ( the regs can change as easily as the next election or new county board) but the climate, specifically the water availability and forecast of water availability in the future. I have noted, for instance, in Eastern TX the annual rainfall has decreased by over 50% since 2012. Not good. Catch basins and other systems still rely on a certain % of rain capture, but it is hard to capture what is not there.

Another issue which is a biggie are noting the type of soil and who owns the timber rights. We looked at property in Washington state and KY and were surprised how many had already sold the rights to their land or signed agreements for fracking or other mineral exploitation or had scraped off and sold their top soil--some were not forthcoming until we asked certain questions outright. We plan to buy our land this year and would love to be a part of a community. I think it would be great if communities within a region connected with other to form a supportive network. In TN there is already a large Permaculture educational farm. I will (hopefully) complete my own Permaculture Design studies this summer and then can begin to work in earnest towards developing land and interfacing with others. If you have not considered already, TN in the Southern part has rolling terrain, plenty of moisture, USDA zones 7-7b , and certain counties have minimal regulations. Be wary of KY which seems to have an inordinate amount of eco and personal landfull dumping with many areas having dump sites in almost every front yard. (I am not kidding) this indicates no trash pick up among other things.

We looked at a 69 acre property in KY that looked very promising until we drove about 1/4 further up the road and realized the locals had dumped on the land everything from cars, refrigerators, air conditioners and boats, to mattresses, glass, raw trash and even an old shed or two. --no matter how large the land, if at all possible, walk it and take a good look -- as usual, when a ridge is mentioned you can bet most of the land is not tillable or even remotely moderately sloped,....

I would not recommend purchasing land in the Southwest. Despite the temperate and almost sub tropical climate, those areas are slated to have severe droughts within the next 4-5-7 years with no end in sight. Water sources already stretched will become even more severe. The advantage of looking for land now is that you do not have to work with less than ideal circumstances if you do not settle for land in more challenging regions and consider the attributes of aspect, climate, water, soil, slope, orientation, land restrictions and building regulations, etc.
 
Queenie Hankinson
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Kyle: another way to help others is to buy a block of land, subdivide it and if you are a certified designer, teach permaculture classes-- subdivide so that each buyer has their own zone 1, but zones 2-5 would be community opwned or worked. My husband thought about doing this and selling land with homes already built on 3/4 of the land, (each owner would own 1 acre and their home outright but the areas of the food forests and larger crops and animal grazing and hoop houses, and all dams and aquaculture would be owned by all in the community.


I thought perhaps buying enough and designing homes (earth bag which is even less expensive than strawbale and also uses cob and lime plaster), preparing the zone 1 garden plots then obtaining and beginning to grow tree seedlings and legumes would mean that those who do not wish to learn so specifically could benefit from predesigned areas. We would offer courses for the home owners and for every 4 owners we would offer 1 home and acreage to a permaculture graduate to act as community steward for their portion of the community. In this way, there would be a knowledgeable person within the community that the others could rely on and who could also help them with animals, planting, and teach the many aspects of sustainability .

Those who were too old or did not wish to engage in volunteering to take care of animals or the like could pay a monthly fee so that they still could enjoy the fruits of the animals or labor but not have to indulge. The monies from the fees would go to pay a stipend to the steward who also would be given the opportunity to live in the home provided on a contract basis (say, every 3 years the other 4 owners would decide if they needed to vote on a new steward or not)

Community activities would include building, animal husbandry, canning, and drying food, gardening, etc.

The idea was to use the money from ordinary folks buying homes to buy more land and repeat-- we wanted to eventually have communities of about 20 homes, with 16 bought homes and 4 stewards we wanted them to be as near each other as possible and especially wanted to encourage owners to become educated in permaculture.

By buying and predesigning the land and building the homes and setting up the zones and beginning the planting process, we would take some of the anxiety and confusion out of the sustaining process because as people chose their own home and the site that it was on, they would be given a crash course in what was expected and could go into a process without having to do everything for themselves. We would provide the legumes and seedlings, teach seed storage, seek out cultivars for planting and provide the basics. Those who bought the homes (we were going to use container homes for some with most having lake or pond views) would be buying not only their house and garden, but also access to the herds, milk, cheese, butter, etc, chickens, etc. We were thinking of having semi communities for vegans, vegetarians, ominivores, etc but each would be a group of 5 to themselves though they may share aspects such as access to the ponds and food forests OR we also thought of developing zones 2 for each owner as well.

How does this sound? Our goal was to have at least 25% of our properties to go to people who cannot afford homes per se but who worked hard to learn about permaculture and committed themselves to the community and their place in it--as stewards, they would ultimately take on a large amount of the task for ensuring butchering, composting and crop planting and succession were done correctly --in return following a 10 year stint, we planned to gift them their house and zones.

The bulk of the land would belong to the community and as such would not be able to be sold--also we would specify that any who wanted to sell could not do so for 3 years minimum. We planned to combine able bodied youth with older people so that there was a mix --each with their own worth and able in some way to contribute--in this way, even elderly who wanted to live sustainably and self sufficiently could do so with the contribution of others.
 
I agree. Here's the link: http://stoves2.com
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