Re: Common spaces and decision making
From: oz (
Date: Fri, 6 Jul 2012 11:22:38 -0700 (PDT)
Over the years, we've had several ideas wither on the vine after a member
has requested it... either verbally or with a very brief written proposal.
My experience is that many community members have not been able to cause
written proposals to be prepared and presented - either by doing it
themselves or in another context. Currently, a written proposal is required
here for substantive changes to the commons.

In one case, a family, which had already stepped back from active
participation, really wanted to raise chickens. They brought it up
verbally, talking to various people about chickens for over a year.
Finally, another (highly educated) member asked if they could write a
chicken proposal with them, doing it together.

They did, the proposal passed, and we got the chickens and several people
helped care for them and all, except for the vegans, ate the eggs.

I'm pretty clear that our current process discriminates against people who
are less willing/able to write out their ideas and make requests. Its easy
to sit in judgment about these non-proposers, saying things like "they are
just not willing to do the work." Its much harder to help them meet their
needs if that support is needed and welcome.

Creating/fostering community is hard - especially with people who are not
just like you. And you, dear reader, are attracted to reading complex
information about a myriad of complex topics.


On Fri, Jul 6, 2012 at 10:50 AM, Greg Nelson <ghn [at]> wrote:

> A few months ago, Sharon Villines wrote:
> > Self-regulation in communities is a problem. Everyone wants to avoid
> > conflict. Anyone who raises these issues will be labelled a
> > troublemaker. "Live and let live." But the people who are expanding
> > into community space will not necessarily be seen as the people
> > causing the conflict.
> This is reminiscent of an issue that has recently surfaced here, and I
> appreciate the "reassurance" that what we ran into is a known issue.
> Still, I think we need a better idea about how we actually make this
> work in the future.
> Our community (planned for 30 homes + common house clustered on 120
> total acres) has a strong 'homesteading' focus, where people are using
> land for growing their food, both animal and vegetable.  In support of
> this, we have essentially 5 categories of land use:
> 1. Leased lots (about 0.07 acres each) where the homes are built.
>    These are surveyed and their positions set in our local zoning law.
> 2. "Backyard extension" areas (fixed sized areas, typically behind
>    the homes, though they may be moved with formal approval).  These
>    are preapproved for gardening, sheds, fencing, and such features.
> 3. "Member project" areas.  These are fixed sized areas, allocated
>    through community agreement, supporting particular projects.
> 4. "Outside project" areas.  These are like member projects except
>    that they are done by non-members and include written leases with
>    lease payments for the land.
> 5. "Common land" areas.  These are areas that are not allocated to any
>    of the above.
> One family recently proposed to raise ducks.  For this purpose, they
> wanted the (non-exclusive) use of our community pond, which is also
> used for swimming and fire protection.
> A number of questions were raised including: How would the pond
> ecosystem/swimmability be affected?  What were the contingency plans if
> the pond quality deteriorated?  If there was a surplus (duck eggs, duck
> meat) would it be sold to other community members (making a profit off
> of common land?) or offered for free?  Should we write a lease for the
> land being used, as we would for an "outside project"?
> In response to these questions, the household proposing the ducks
> first withdrew the proposal (without an opportunity to discuss) and
> eventually chose to withdraw from the community and move elsewhere.
> They cited, as a main reason for their decision, that it was "too hard
> to do the things that they wished to do" with a fairly explicit
> implication that they felt our decision making process itself was
> broken.  For them, needing to have more than one meeting on a
> proposal, or even having one meeting where they were required to
> defend or modify their proposal, was more than they wanted to put up
> with.
> The general feeling among the remaining community members seems to be
> that such proposals are perfectly practical *if people are willing to
> work on them.*  My own observation about projects already going on
> here is that (for the most part) plants tend to stay put where you
> plant them, but animals are more complex and require more discussion.
> However, at least one of the departing residents has promised
> (threatened?) to deliver us a written analysis of how our
> decision-making is broken once she "is done being angry."
> How seriously should we take this?  Obviously feedback can be good,
> but how should we address feedback from people who have self-selected
> out of the community?
> Also, how far out of the norm are we?  Most coho communities that I
> know of don't have horses and multiple flocks of chickens with plans
> ahead for goats, sheep, maybe a cow...
> Finally, if any communities out there have a similar kind of land use
> in mind, I'd like to hear how you actually handle the allocation
> process in a way that is fair to all the residents.  Particularly if
> it manages to keep both the "expanders" and the "regulators" that
> Sharon described at peace with one another.
> Thank you,
> Greg Nelson                     email:  terramantra [at]
> White Hawk Ecovillage           phone:  607-273-2576
> Ithaca, NY 14850                web:
> _________________________________________________________________
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