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Author Topic: Off-Grid Homestead Subdivision  (Read 13631 times)

Chuckster

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Off-Grid Homestead Subdivision
« on: March 22, 2004, 07:39:22 pm »

Here is an idea I've been kicking around for a few months now.  I was thinking of locating a parcel of undeveloped land, perhaps 200 acres or more, to purchase for the purpose of subdividing into smaller parcels for people who want to go off-grid and build their own dwellings and live in a rural setting away from the established towns and cities.  I know from reading the forums for the past several months that there is some interest in off-grid or "Homestead" living as well as some interest in unconventional housing.  The question is how much interest is there among Porcupines and does that interest equate to a desire and ability to purchase acreage in a planned off-grid community.

By "Planned" I refer only to the initial subdivision and a very basic access road network.  The sort of people who would be attracted to something like this won't want a lot of structure beyond property lines and access roads.  The absolute bare minimum subdivision I would consider would be ten acres and personally I wouldn't be much interested in anything smaller than forty. Although I have heard of people doing it on as little as two and a half acres, that size lot does not offer much in the way of privacy except in very dense woods and even then, not in winter.

So the question becomes "Is there any interest?" and if so, I would ask the following:

What would the optimum lot size be?
What should the minimum lot size be? (Considering that two or more lots could be combined)
How elaborate whould the access road network be?(This will affect prices of course; a paved road costs more than gravel surfaced dirt, costs more than graded dirt, costs more than two-wheel-tracks-through-the-woods)
What other infrastructure (if any) would you expect the "Developer" to provide?

$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$

This is not part of my personal wealth building plan, believe it or not.  I recognize that most of the people who would be interested in this sort of thing are not the folks who buy half million dollar homes and hire decorators to buy the furniture; nor are they ordinarily the type to have large credit lines and lots of cash.

Having said that; I am interested in supporting the back to the land movement (If there is such a thing) to the extent that I am able.  To that end, I would like to do something like this and make enough $$ to cover my costs and pay for the time invested while offering reasonably priced land to people who will respect it for what it is.

What do you think?
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Tracy Saboe

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Re:Off-Grid Homestead Subdivision
« Reply #1 on: March 22, 2004, 08:10:38 pm »

Quote
What would the optimum lot size be?

I for one wouldn't need more then a quarter acre.

As long as my neighbors don't build their houses too high (Don't want them to block my sun.)

Heck, I'd probably get buy with half that.

I don't know. How large is a city lot typically?

Tracy
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Chuckster

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Re:Off-Grid Homestead Subdivision
« Reply #2 on: March 23, 2004, 03:25:01 pm »

Dream site would be 5 acres of good bottom land with a stream on one side of the lot.
(Chuckle) Mama said "If you're gonna dream, dream BIG!" so, for me, it's more like eighty acres with a forty acre wood lot, a half mile of river frontage and a home site a thousand feet from the nearest property line.  If I can buy the south forty of my neighbor's farm I'll have it.  Unfortunately, the forty acres I already own are in Vermont :-\
And of course affordable.

When I was in my twenties, "affordable" meant something quite different from what it means today, thirty years later. What this tells me is that there should be a range of options, i.e., lot size, proximity to the highway, open water, woods etc. which will create a range of prices.
Road at first could be a gravel road, and who would be responsible for the  up keep of the road?  All land owners putting money into escrow for repair and up keep of the road? Propotional to the road frontage?

Personally, I don't much care for asphalt or concrete surfaced roads in rural areas.  Several years ago when we were looking for a place in Vermont, I specifically looked for properties on dirt roads.  Because we plan to keep horses and other livestock, we wanted low traffic and low tech. the town roads in North Troy Vermont range from two wheel tracks through the woods with a little gravel spread in the boggy areas to full two lane asphalt highway.  Engineered crushed rock and gravel surfaced roads that are kept open year round serve the farms in the area that are not on the main highway. The lesser roads may or may not be kept open by the neighbors who use them.

What I propose is to find a large property with town or state maintained road access.  I would then lay out a network of access roads to the individual properties.  These roads would be graded dirt, possibly with gravel surface depending on the ground.  Maintenance would be a cooperative effort by all of the land owners.

In practice, someone will have a snow plow, someone will have a skip loader and/or back hoe etc. and neighbors will work out mutually beneficial arrangements to keep the roads open by trading services and products like cordwood, maple syrup, butchering and, in the modern world, computer services etc.

I suppose it all comes down to just how self sufficient you want to be?  Do you really want to live off-grid?


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Top Dollar

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Re:Off-Grid Homestead Subdivision
« Reply #3 on: March 25, 2004, 03:29:43 pm »

I've been looking into starting a similar project, perhaps in Grafton.  The concept in mind is to layout the development so that individual lots are surrounded by public greenbelt as circular lots in a hexagonal array, say 1/2 acre lots surrounded by 1/2 acre right of way.  The lattice of greenbelts has a network of trails and single lane roads.  A middle parallel pair of trails serves as a road for cars with another winding trail on each side of it for pedestrian traffic.  two wheeled vehicles can go in two direction on the center trails, with pedestrians using the outer trails.  The intent is that the houses are not visible from the paths.  You can build whatever you want, and no one else has to look at it.  There would also be a high density commercial area, though people are free to use property as they wish anywhere in the community.  All members have use of the public right of way greenbelt area to travel and run utilities provided that the utilities are buried from view.  The utilites may be run in cement trenches covered with removable pavers which double as the center two trails for the road.

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Chuckster

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Re:Off-Grid Homestead Subdivision
« Reply #4 on: March 25, 2004, 05:09:03 pm »

Your idea is more "developed" than mine  Still along the same lines however.   I was thinking of parcels of sufficient size to provide fuel, food and cash crops for a family with room enough for livestock like goats, horses etc. This would allow for a greater degree of self suficiency. Smaller parcels would work if there were a "Commons" and no one abused it.  I'm afraid I have more faith in private property ownership though.

What I'd really like to do though is  something like this or like this but it will take more organization than I can handle by myself.  And no, I don't want to get eveyone dressed up in homespun clothes in eighteenth century styles.  I just think that there are surely a half a dozen families and individuals who would like to live a more natural lifestyle and I'd like to provide the opportunity.  We could call it "Liberty Village"

Laura and I spent our honeymoon as crew aboard HM Bark Endeavour, six weeks at sea living and working in the eighteenth century (But with 20th century galley, showers and lavatories) and I've been intrigued by the concept ever since.

 Well, I've wandered far from the original concept but that's what we're here for, to float ideas and kick them around.
« Last Edit: March 25, 2004, 05:14:16 pm by Chuckster »
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Top Dollar

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Re:Off-Grid Homestead Subdivision
« Reply #5 on: March 25, 2004, 07:33:02 pm »

If there is sufficient land available, it would be great to have larger lot sizes.  Also, the above plan would allow lot buyers to combine them to make larger contiguous areas, at the same 1:1 developed land/greenbelt ratio.  The commons areas can be landscaped as produce gardens with aquaculture ponds in an attractive manner, as in the April issue of Martha Stewart Living.  This would provide a source of income for the association to maintain the commons.  Other income sources would be utilities and communications, though anyone would be free to compete to provide service.

My main area of interest and expertise is in the engineering layout and design of an integrated infrastructure system with an aesthetically appealing  environment.

There can be a publically accessible zone with RV lots and trucking facilities with businesses catering to this clientel.  The commercial area is a buffer between the public business area and the members only area.

The layout encourages the use of horses and bicycles in the private commons trails preserving a woodsey natural setting. Cars can be garaged along with horses in a livery stable at the entrance.
« Last Edit: March 25, 2004, 07:38:18 pm by Top Dollar »
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Chuckster

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Re:Off-Grid Homestead Subdivision
« Reply #6 on: March 26, 2004, 02:55:12 pm »

Top that sounds good.  

The downside is that it would require a lot more WORK![/i] (In my best Maynard G. Crebs voice).  An ongoing formal business plan would be required and professional management services to carry it out.  Revenue would have to be generated to finance it and a board of directors would be needed for oversight.  Now we have a sort of community association that could wind up telling property owners what kind of grass to plant  

At a minimum, the ownership of the commons would have to be handled like a condominium development with monthly maintenance fees assessed the individual property owners and managed by a paid property manager.  In my experience this would add an onerous additional expense, not unlike a tax, to the property owners.  I would favor a plan that keeps the monetary expense to an absolute minimum, substituting perhaps "Community service" time for maintenance of the common areas.

We are not seeing the same vision here Top.  When I say "Commons" I'm seeing the eighteenth century model.  somehow I don't think that someone who reads Martha Stewart Living is going to like a herd of goats grazing in what they view as their "Park", or even on their neighbors property.

And we did, after all, begin with the premis that this development would be "Off-grid", meaning that individual property owners would be required either to do without or generate their own electricity.  Also there would be no water or sewers provided.  Property owners would be required to put in septic fields or use composting toilets and dig or drill wells or haul in water to be stored in tanks.  There would need to be sufficient acreage in woodland to provide a sustainable harvest of fuel as well.

The object, in my vision at least, is to keep initial costs to an absolute minimum and to allow, and in fact promote, as close to a cashless lifestyle as possible.

Your model would be great for more affluent folks and/or those with a desire for a more conventional modern lifestyle and I think it warrants further discussion and development.  The business planning and management presents no special challenges, that's what Laura and I do for a living now and we have quite a resume of varied and wide ranging experience.  If anything, a development like you describe presents an interesting profit opportunity and is certainly worth pursuing.

Unless of course I misunderstand.
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Top Dollar

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Re:Off-Grid Homestead Subdivision
« Reply #7 on: March 26, 2004, 08:58:37 pm »

It would start out very minimal, with the commons areas just graded with paths and lots staked off.  Levying any kind of homeowner's fee is absolutely out of the question.  Any operating expenses for developing and maintaining the common areas would have to come out of profit making business run by the association.  Private business is encouraged where possible to provide any needed service.  No exclusive franchises are allowed-the market and rights of way are open to any member.  I had intended to have a more formal presentation of the plan, but saw the opportunity to mention it here when the subject came up.  I am looking at keeping the price in the $2000-$3000 range per 1/2 acre lot, based on the land prices I've seen for 50+ acre tracts in the market.  These lots have the additional appeal of being isolated from adjoining lots by the commons.  Purchasers also own shares in the association, which can return a dividend off of any profits left over after its costs of operating its businesses.
« Last Edit: March 26, 2004, 09:00:03 pm by Top Dollar »
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Chuckster

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Re:Off-Grid Homestead Subdivision
« Reply #8 on: March 30, 2004, 03:25:46 pm »

Very interesting Top.  I think there is tremendous potential with this idea.  I'd like to take some time to develop it more fully.  I still think that the scale needs to be somewhat larger than your concept but I see no reason why at least some smaller parcels shouldn't be included.  Handled properly, a very high quality of life could be made available for relatively low cost and very low environmental impact.




My main area of interest and expertise is in the engineering layout and design of an integrated infrastructure system with an aesthetically appealing  environment.



And my strong suit is business planning, management, sales and marketing.  My company, The Starlight Group LLC is engaged, primarily in real estate investing.  Perhaps there is an opportunity for advantageous synergy here.

Are you in NH now?

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Top Dollar

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Re:Off-Grid Homestead Subdivision
« Reply #9 on: April 05, 2004, 10:56:54 am »

I had envisioned the smaller lots to make it easy for a lot of people to participate by buying a smaller, say 50 acre minimum tract, and still have a good sized community without needing financing.  Having an investor who is willing to purchase a much larger property allowing larger lot sizes would be a boon to the project.  It is possible to have a small unit lot size which buyers can combine to make larger parcels.  I'll need to lay out a concept plan which can be used as a template for developing a specific site when aquired.

The closest existing example of this kind of development I am aware of is Sanibel Island in Florida.  Sanibel is much higher end with full sized, paved, straight roads than what I have in mind but it does show how development can occur in an ecological preserve.

I am not in New Hampshire yet, as I have a couple of years of loose ends to tie up.
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jnoyes

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Re:Off-Grid Homestead Subdivision
« Reply #10 on: November 22, 2004, 06:48:29 pm »

Hi all

would love to join the off grid subdivison idea...

I'd need probably 1/2 acre for the house, 1/2 for the garden, 2 for the orchard, and  2 for the animals so 5 acres
is probably the minimum assuming we choose land close by to national/state park land thats got wild area for hunting critters wood scavenging, and animal habits

....Id always figured on starting a commune/coop anyway so maybe I could get by on a lot less if the animals gardens and orchards could be shared.

please email me at jeremy_noyes@hotmail.com
Id like to start a buyers group for off grid land huge parcles are cheaper per acre but need large chunks of cash that none of us have access to.

ps Ive got about 4K to start the till. and probably double that if I liquidate a few things I dont really need.

pps has anyone read
Christopher Alexanders "A pattern Language" there are some great ideas in that book for community planning
 
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RidleyReport

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Re:Off-Grid Homestead Subdivision
« Reply #11 on: November 22, 2004, 08:32:40 pm »

Are you the same Chuck who got in all that hot water over the Grafton situation ?  Or someone different?
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lloydbob1

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Re:Off-Grid Homestead Subdivision
« Reply #12 on: November 23, 2004, 07:42:28 am »

By 'off the grid' do you mean no electricity?

For basic homesteading without large animals 2-5 acres.  Gravel Roads are fairly easy to maintain. No common property would lessen problems.
Lloyd
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JasonPSorens

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Re:Off-Grid Homestead Subdivision
« Reply #13 on: November 23, 2004, 01:15:58 pm »

Are you the same Chuck who got in all that hot water over the Grafton situation ?  Or someone different?

Someone different!
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lloydbob1

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Re:Off-Grid Homestead Subdivision
« Reply #14 on: November 23, 2004, 02:00:44 pm »

I'm gussing that this is the Chuckster from Hawaii who intends to buy some income property in the Free State.
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