Land Use on Coho Acreage
From: Nessa Dertnig (
Date: Fri, 10 Aug 2012 03:46:43 -0700 (PDT)
Hi there,

Here at Belfast Cohousing & Ecovillage we are in the process of thinking about 
how people are going to be able to use our undeveloped 35 acres.  Some thinking 
by our group in the past has been that there will be some sort of proposal 
process and reviewing committee where people can propose to do individual 
projects (one family wants a big raspberry patch), small group projects (a 
couple people raising a milk cow together), or community projects (where 
everyone finances and helps out - like a community orchard), and the committee 
helps them along the process and coordinates the placement of the project on 
our land.  The idea is to have an "inventory map" of our land, showing good 
agricultural soils, wet spots, etc., that will help guide project placement.

Anyway, folks are moving in now and we're at the juncture where we really need 
to get some sort of working system in place.  During our process, several 
questions have come up that I'd love some input on!

1) How have other communities dealt with the idea of income-producing projects 
on commonly owned land?  In my opinion, the reality for our group at this time 
is that we're going to have a hard time "filling" those 35 acres -- and some of 
us would love to encourage a farmer/farmers to join us.  Some folks, while 
wanting food grown on our land, are having a hard time wrapping their heads 
around the idea of someone making money from that land we all own.  Having done 
farming myself, I tend to think of farmers helping us qualify for a lower 
property tax rate as being compensation enough for the rest of the community, 
since farmers certainly will not be making loads of money, but I'd love to all 
the ways other communities are dealing with this.

2) Private projects in general:  Should a family with a private raspberry patch 
have to remunerate the community in some way for the private use of that common 
land?  Or should we be happy to encourage agricultural activities and let go of 
a feeling of control and ownership?

3) How have community projects worked for other communities?  Does everyone 
really help out and contribute money? Does this become more likely over time as 
people get used to living in community?

4) Does any community out there have no structure at all -- no proposal 
process, no reviewing -- just a "get out there and grow" attitude -- and how 
has that worked? 

5) Land use agreements -- apparently we can't actually "lease" land legally to 
people, but what has been done in terms of agreements between the community and 
a farmer for how long a farmer gets the use of the land?  For some farming 
projects that involve lots of effort spent improving soil fertility, not to 
mention erecting hoop houses or planting fruit trees/bushes, it seems like 
something not much different than a lifetime lease might be required -- but 
will the group agree to this?  What have others done?  What about time 
agreements for community members doing private projects?

I really appreciate anyone willing to take time to answer any of these 
questions, to explain how their systems work (or don't work), or to point me in 
the direction of certain folks or communities who might be able to help!

Have a great weekend everyone!

PS:  We're having a festival and Open House this weekend if anyone is in the 
area and wants to check out our progress! Sunday from 12-4pm.

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