Monday, September 5, 2011

Piscataquis Village Project


I just got an email from Tracy Gayton about their new village project in Maine, USA. Is it possible to create something like this in Norway? Visit their Facebook profile here. Read my article on Village Towns here.

Saxed from their profile:

This proposal is to create a compact, car-free, village of 125 acres, on a site totaling 500 acres in southern Piscataquis County. Development of the site would be guided by a set of zoning and building covenants specifically composed to create a space, as it is built out, to resemble traditional villages of Europe and early North America, in which foot or bicycle was the primary or sole method of... transportation. This site would be declared a car-free zone. Motor vehicles would be parked at the perimeter of the development in a green belt of at least 375 acres, which would also be acquired as part of this project. The green belt, other than the area designated for vehicle parking, would also be a zone for allotment gardens, small scale agriculture, playing fields, outdoor recreation and park-like green space.

In place of building ordinances, typical of most Maine towns, which require setbacksfrom the edges of the lot, would be "zero-lot line" ordinances making for connected buildings with common walls that front directly on the sidewalk. Streets would be narrower and human scaled. Buildings would have a 4 story height limitation and be constructed in such a way as to create arcaded, covered sidewalks. Small squares or plazas would be set through the development, which would become neighborhood centers and meeting places.

The site would be defined as a medium density, residential/mixed use development allowing an average density of 35 to 50 building lots per acre. Buildings, due to their close proximity to each other (typically town house /row house style), would be of masonry construction to meet a strict fire-proof standard. Ordinances typical of Maine towns requiring car parking spaces for businesses and residences would not be required, and commercial space on the ground floor of residences would be allowed and encouraged.

It is important to clarify that it is not the intention of this project to construct buildings or to micromanage specific building design. We believe that the most successful places are places where individuals and groups are free to do as they like as long as they don't infringe upon the freedom of their neighbors. We also recognize that in any settlement where people are brought together in close proximity, practically speaking, some agreed upon covenants need to be established.

The function of this project is to:

1. Acquire a site

2. Map out streets, plazas and building lots

3. Compose a set of land use and building ordinances, which we believe will be no more onerous than the ordinances currently in place in many Maine towns, but instead, are appropriate to a car free, compact settlement.

4. Achieve approval for the project from the appropriate regulatory agencies

5. Establish basic infrastructure for the first phase of the development

6. Market building lots

A settlement of this type will ultimately result in reduced heating costs, much lower initial building costs and on going maintenance costs due to the geometry of building construction, which tends toward vertical, with common walls reducing the exterior surface area of buildings.

A compact, pedestrian development will result in reduced transportation costs and fuel costs, enabling people, as the community grows, to meet many of their daily needs by foot or bicycle travel. A development of 125 acres means that for most people, ten minutes would be the maximum time to walk between the two most distant points. The diameter of the developed area, about 800 yards, would be about the same as the distance between Rowell's Garage and the Center Theater in Dover-Foxcroft, Maine. It would occupy about the same area as an 18 hole golf course.

This style of community enhances face to face contact and conviviality between neighbors, and foot traffic replacing car traffic makes for a safer environment for children.

A development which features a connecting network of arcaded, covered sidewalks is a boon for everyone, considering our Maine climate, and is especially beneficial to the elderly and mobility impaired.

Due to the density of the development, the compactness of the infrastructure, and the less expensive costs to maintain and build pedestrian-only streets, the cost to acquire and build on lots within the community will be extremely affordable.

We visualize this community as a desirable place for many segments of society. Retirees may prefer low maintenance living and shopping close to hand. Families with young children won't have to worry about traffic. Some people may like a "pied a' terre" in the Village, while maintaining their current primary residence. Frugal people that resent current mandated minimum lot sizes will be free to construct a modest, compact dwelling here. Children of Piscataquis Country residents currently living outside of the area, could locate a vacation home in the community.

We see this project as primarily providing building lots for individuals, but also we see it as providing a "pre-approved zone" for groups of friends, families, and organizations such as co-housing groups, art colonies, eco-villages, or community housing and development organizations that sometimes face zoning hurdles that take years to resolve.

Regulatory approval of this 125 acre project, at the proposed density, may create here, in Piscataquis County, the largest approved car-free zone in the United States.

We propose to accomplish this project the old-fashioned way: through grass roots, individual investors. It is very early in the process, and assuredly things will change, but right now we are working with an investment goal of two million dollars.

Currently we are basing this amount on land acquisition costs of 500 acres at $1000. per acre ($500,000) which leaves 1.5 million for the regulatory approval process and the basic infrastructure to the first phase of the development. We ask for a minimum investment amount of $10,000. This amount entitles the investor to an unimproved building lot within the development, a plot of land in the green/agricultural zone, car parking space at the perimeter, and an investment share in the project commensurate to the amount invested.

We have structured this in a way to as much as possible decrease investment risk. We ask this question of our prospective investors:

"Would you be willing to enter into a non-legally binding commitment to invest $10,000 in this compact village project, AFTER and IF 200 other people also commit to invest $10,000, (2 million dollars), assuming we locate a suitable site in the southern third of Piscataquis County and IF we obtain the necessary regulatory approval for the project?"

As of this date we have secured contingent commitments from 20 individuals and families, totaling $250,000. We are actively seeking additional investors to meet our goal of $2,000,000.

Our vision is modest: to secure a site, obtain regulatory approval for a medium density/ mixed used development, map out a basic physical structure of streets, plazas and building lots, compose a set of building covenants appropriate to a human scaled, car-free settlement, and let it organically, incrementally evolve. Those people or groups of people that wish to pursue their own, various versions of the Good Life within the bounds of the Village are welcome.

Please understand that we haven't got it all figured out. This project is new, and will most assuredly evolve. Be a part of it. Contact me if you would like more information on becoming a contingent investor.

Thank you.

Tracy Gayton
tracygayton@gmail.com

Fine Print:The ideas in this website are not intended to be a commitment, representation or offer. Nothing will be final until reduced to formal contract.

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