Claude Lewenz, an American-turned Kiwi, has written a fascinating book, “How to Build a Village,” in which he envisions how to build a small community — a “village” of some 5,000 to 10,000 people — that is prosperous, environmentally sustainable and enables a high quality of life. On Waiheke Island, outside Auckland, on the far side of the world, Lewenz has elaborated many of the same principles propounded on this blog. He offers a capitalist, market-driven alternative to Business As Usual.

The central feature of the Lewenzian village is this: It has no cars or trucks. Within the village perimeter, people get about by walking, bicycling or using small electric vehicles. To many, the idea will sound ludicrous. But drawing upon real-world examples of Medieval Italian cities and Greek island villages, Lewenz makes an intriguing case. He would organize his villages around Italianate plazas and link them with pedestrian streets and lanes of various widths; cars, to be used only for travel outside the village, would be banished to a garage on the village edge.

The scheme would work because getting rid of the cars eliminates the need for the vast apparatus of streets, highways and parking lots that consume so much urban space. As a result, everything is closer together. Thus, trips are shorter. (As a bonus, Lewenz envisions using the savings in asphalt to invest in underground utilities, recycling and waste systems, organizing and promoting locally grown foods, and other village enterprises.)

While Lewenz sees his village located in the countryside, demarcated by a village wall from the fields and woods (what Ed Risse would call a “clear edge”), he acknowledges that variations of the auto-free zone could be applied in urban environments through in-fill and re-development projects. Just imagine the impact in Virginia if our major metropolitan areas developed strings of car-free villages, linked by arterial roads and mass transit, in which some 50 percent to 80 percent of all “trips” took place on foot or on bicycle.

As Lewenz notes, America already has large car-free zones. We just don’t realize it. We cover them with roofs and call them malls. We just need to make them bigger: integrating shops with houses, offices, public buildings and other amenities…. and removing the roof.

In “First, Shoot All the Cars,” I focus mainly on how a Lewenzian village would function without cars, but I allude to many of his other ideas for building more livable, sustainable communities. If you find the column intriguing, buy the book. It is lavishly illustrated with color photographs from Lewenz’s travels around the world — well worth the hefty purchase price.

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58 responses to “How to Build a Village”

  1. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    hey these things already exist..

    they’ll called cities with multi-story buildings… with cordon congestion pricing.


  2. DrPhilster Avatar

    Real problem with this whole issue the design by Fire Truck and EMS crowd. Without serious changes in state law limited either the size of their vehicles or their reveiw power this can never get past an academic discussion into the real world of the Old Dominion.

  3. Darrell -- Chesapeake Avatar
    Darrell — Chesapeake

    Oh here we go, another whackjob that wants to cram thousands into little hovels, while he lives like the lord of the realm.

  4. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    We’re a movin’ on up,
    (We’re a movin on up.)
    To the east side.
    (Mo-vin on up.)
    To a de-luxe apartment,
    In the sky-.
    Mo-vin’ on up
    (Mo-vin on up.)
    To the east side,
    (Mo-vin on up.)
    We finally got a piece of the pie.

    sorry.. couldn’t resist…

  5. Jim Bacon Avatar
    Jim Bacon

    Darrell, your hostility to Lewenz’s ideas amazes me. Upon what evidence do you base the statement that Lewenz “wants to cram thousands into little hovels”?

    Is there a single passage in anything he has written that suggests he wants to coerce anyone into doing anything? No, there’s not. His goal is to sell his ideas in the marketplace. Maybe he’ll succeed, maybe he won’t. But his vision doesn’t deserve knee-jerk hostility that it seems to generate among some readers of this blog.

  6. Anonymous Avatar

    I think it’s great when people try to think outside the box. However, the automobile seems to be one of the most useful inventions ever, such that people won’t give it up easily.

    Let’s look at the plans for Tysons Corner — America’s showcase for a walkable & transit-oriented community. The planners think that almost 8 of every 10 trips in, out and through Tysons would still be be motor vehicle. Taxpayers and DTR drivers will shell out billions, only to see traffic become worse. Moreover, a few real estate people I know have told me that any restrictions on autos could harm their business and make their buildings uncompetitive.

    Don’t hold your breath for Fairfax to become vehicle-less or even a place of fewer autos.


  7. Darrell -- Chesapeake Avatar
    Darrell — Chesapeake

    Ok, I stand corrected. They are $500k hovels. In order to make this little village work, it needs a billion dollars in valuation, along with 10000 people who are to make a minimum of 50 grand per person a year basically working from home. Now for the past several months we have gone back and forth about deadbeat homeowners who buy 500 grand houses and only make 50k a year. So right off the bat, his village idea is lunacy.

    Then there is the issue of space. For 10000 people his little plan calls for 400 acres, not counting the vast amount of farmland that would be needed for his slow growing food farms. If we were to put the entire 8.27 million population of NYC into these villages, the building space would be 330800 acres, or 516 Sq. Miles. A quick Wiki check reveals that the current land taken up by NYC is only 303 Sq. Mi.

    So yeah, I get a little hostile when some flake writes a book about sustainable living, getting his inspiration by looking out the window of New Zealand’s equivalent of Hearst’s Castle.

  8. Jim Bacon Avatar
    Jim Bacon

    Darrell: “They are $500k hovels.”

    Bacon: Where did you get that number?

    Darrell: “…along with 10,000 people who are to make a minimum of 50 grand per person a year basically working from home.”

    Bacon: Wrong. Of the 5,000 to 10,000 residents, Lewenz estimates that 2,000 would be employed (according to the very page you cited). Of those, many would be employed locally in the service sector, or in businesses serving markets outside the village. Further, Lewenz allows for a small industrial area, as well as small office buildings.

    Furthermore, the purpose of creating a parallel real estate market is to allow people with more modest means to live in the community — so the idea that the community requires “minimum” $50,000 a year incomes is nonsense.

    In my column, I did not dwell on affordable housing issues. But the Lewenzian model would allow for a broad range of housing types, including a large number of smaller, less expensive units — say 1,000 square feet. His thinking is that smaller dwelling units would be more palatable to people in a community with abundant, quality public spaces. You don’t have to share that belief personally to acknowledge that perhaps other people would. Anyway, your notion that all houses would cost $500,000 is simply wrong.

    Darrell: Then there is the issue of space. For 10,000 people his little plan calls for 400 acres… If we were to put the entire 8.27 million population of NYC into these villages, the building space would be 330800 acres, or 516 Sq. Miles.”

    Bacon: Darrell, my friend, you are grasping at straws. As memory serves me, your critique of the “anti-urban sprawl” message is that people don’t like density. The vast majority of people don’t want to live like they do in Manhattan. Now, you criticize the “village” for taking up too much space, and you’re wrought up about all that farmland?

    If your criteria is the efficient use of space, the “village” concept is a winner. The village would consist overwhelmingly of small, human-scale buildings, so, yes, there would be less density than Manhattan. On the other hand, elimination of roads and parking spaces — hardly what you’d call quality space — would be eliminated. The result is a use of space than is far more efficient than contemporary “suburban” settlement patterns.

    I still don’t understand why you’re so hostile to an idea that (a) would leave you alone to live any way you want, (b) relies entirely upon free-market mechanisms and consumer choice, and (c) offers the prospect of creating a higher quality of life for those who choose it.

  9. Anonymous Avatar

    Jimbo Bacon,
    You know, you have a dangerous tendency to back the strong arm approach.
    So does New York City. Back in 1989, I moved there from overseas with my wife and infant daughter. We lived in an OK neighborhood in Brooklyn. I worked in midtown Manhattan. Since we had been overseas and subways were convenient, we did not have a car.
    One weekend we rented a car for some event or another. I was to return it Monday morning. I had parked it on our street where the restrictions began at 7 a.m. At that time, I looked out, and it was still there. I decided to have a second cup of coffee. Ten minutes later, the car was no longer there. It took me several hours and three hundred dollars in cash to get it back only to return it to the rental place where I was charged a late fee.
    (Funny that congestion p[ricing for New York has failed.)
    Thanks a lot, Bacon!

    Peter Galuszka

  10. Accurate Avatar

    Jim said, “I still don’t understand why you’re so hostile to an idea that (a) would leave you alone to live any way you want, (b) relies entirely upon free-market mechanisms and consumer choice, and (c) offers the prospect of creating a higher quality of life for those who choose it.”

    Let’s go over your points – point (a) is correct in that (as you pointed out to me in a previous reply) a person would have to sign covenants, deeds and all sorts of other restrictive conditions to live there – not what I would do, but fair enough. Point (b) is only sort of correct, in the same way that point (a) is correct. If you can find enough folks who have drunk the kool-aid, then this would come off the ground; it certainly isn’t for folks like me who HATE density. Point (c) is a jab at people like me, why does this model equal a “higher quality of life”? Personally, give me a home, a barn and 50 acres and I’ll have a MUCH higher quality of life (in my opinion) than ANYONE living in this man’s idea of utopia.

  11. Jim Bacon Avatar
    Jim Bacon

    Accurate, How is point (c) a jab at you? We live in a diverse country where people practice a wide variety of lifestyles and have very different values and priorities. Some people choose to live one way, some another. Do you consider the fact that some people like to live in Arlington or the Fan (in Richmond) a personal reproach to your lifestyle? I sure don’t consider the fact that people like to live on 50-acre farmettes a reproach to mine! I just don’t understand your hyper-sensitivity to someone trying to do something new.

    What Lewenz is doing is trying to create a new settlement pattern — the auto-free village — for those people (be they few in number or many) who find that it offers them a higher quality of life. That’s the essence of capitalism man — building a better mousetrap. Yet, for some reason, people like you and Darrell want to squat all over the idea. You guys come across as the ones who seek to impose your views on others.

    If you said, “Hey, Lewenz’ village does nothing for me,” and then explain why, I would have no problem. But you’re acting like this would be some kind of blight on mankind.

  12. Jim Bacon Avatar
    Jim Bacon

    Peter, You left your rental car unattended in New York City? You fool! You’re lucky it still had its hub caps and radio when you picked it up!

  13. Anonymous Avatar

    Fool? Maybe. Actually you can park your car in parts of NYC without worry. I thought you were going to berate me for having that second cup of coffee.

    Peter Galuszka

  14. E M Risse Avatar
    E M Risse

    What is surprising about the comments is how violently the 12 1/2 Percenter crowd reacts to any suggestion that they are flogging a dead horse with Single Household Dwellings.

    The market, boys, believe the market! Check the value per square foot of Units that meet Lewenz’s general Dooryard and Cluster scale criteria. Compare at 1,200 sq ft up to 5,000 sq ft. The market speaks.

    It is a shame that the web site noted above:

    is not well maintained and some of the links are dead. It has a lot of good images and thoughtful ideas.

    (Watch the 12 1/2 Percenters go after that red meat.)

    Compare what we say in “All Aboard” 16 April 2007 re METRO station-areas. If we used a larger sheet of paper, Graphic 4 would be just the form the “Ecocity” folks favor.

    As we note in PART IV of THE PROBLEM WITH CARS we will be doing a review of Lewenz’s book. And the following notes are not that review.

    From Jim Bacon’s reading and reporting it is clear that Lewenz is stuck in one scale. It is not just the physical form but the governance structure.

    If you cannot immagine a governance structure with democratic Agency structures at the Cluster, Neighborhood, Village, Community and New Urban Region scales, it may seem safe to hide in a small “Village” that one can “control.”

    Sorry, that does not work. Direct Represenetive Governace ends at the Cluster scale.

    At S/P we have created and managed governance systems with three levels below the Community scale and they can work.

    The larger the urban agglomeration and the more travel demand is met by shared vehicle systems the greater the opportunity of living a “car free life.”

    Check WaPo for the ads for new appartments near METRO stations. More and more are advertising the ability to “live here and be car free.” Now with a Zipcar station in the basement…

    We also object to the idea that it is OK to fill the Countryside with Cars. See PART II of THE PROBLEM WITH CARS.


  15. Anonymous Avatar

    I don’t have any problem with auto free villages. But, they are going to have to be small, because people wont walk very far.

    That means you need a lot of them: More Places.

    And, they will be surrounded by parking lots. A good sized village is going to start to look a lot like a shopping mall. As one African visitor said the first time he entered a Wal Mart, “It is bigger than my village.”

    Because of their size, these small villages will probably specialize in different things. That will mean they will need to be connected by first class transportation capabable of serving multiple nodes, unlike our present mostly radial systems.

    Our present means of heroic radial transportation sytems serving giant and expensive central nodes will have to be re-thought to serve these many villages.

    Cars use parking while they sit empty. It is the trade off that they make for not being driven all day, and being available when needed. Shared vehicles travel around empty for the emost part, in order to avoid being parked. Because of that, they use more fuel, and they are never where you need them when you want one.

    EMR’s views of the efficiency and desirability of shared vehicles is utterly wrong.


  16. Jim Bacon Avatar
    Jim Bacon

    Ray, don’t assume that Lewenzian villages would be surrounded by huge parking lots. Remember, a significant number of “trips” will occur within the village itself. Also, villages would be suitable locales for Zipcar and Flexcar rentals. It goes without saying that the village would be marketed for its one-car or car-free lifestyle — a significant savings for any family’s pocketbook.

    If the village had access to mass transit, then all the better.

  17. Jim Bacon Avatar
    Jim Bacon

    P.S. Ray, you’re right, though, that there would have to be a lot of villages to make a difference. As you say, build more places. Some villages, no doubt, would be new places. I would imagine that most would be in-fill or re-development.

  18. Accurate Avatar

    Jim – your comment was ‘(c) offers the prospect of creating a higher quality of life for those who choose it.’

    I guess that would be ‘higher quality of life’ compared to what and whom? Since I don’t think I’d EVER choose that model then are you saying that the quality of life in that village would be higher than mine? Or higher than who’s quality of life? What base line are you using to make that statement?

    By default it seems like if one does not already subscribe to this idea of how to live, then your choice is a lower choice than the quality that this lifestyle would have to offer. Do you see my point?

  19. Jim Bacon Avatar
    Jim Bacon

    Accurate, let’s say I like wine and you like beer. Does that make wine superior to beer, or vice versa? Of course not. It all depends on individual preferences.

    Apply the same principle to housing. Is a detached single family dwelling better or worse than a condominium apartment? It all depends on the values and preferences of the person you’re asking. Some people, like you, place a premium on privacy and natural beauty. Others place a premium on access to urban amenities and, perhaps, the ability to reach nearby destinations without a car. That doesn’t make either person right or wrong.

    (Where I do have a problem is if someone insists that they have a “right” not only to live where and how they want, but for the general public to pay the cost of serving that location with roads, utilities and public services regardless of the cost. But that’s a different subject, and I don’t want to get side-tracked.)

    In a diverse society, different people have different preferences. Everyone should have the right to live where they want (as long as they’re willing to pay their location-variable costs).

    Here’s the thing: Preferences are changing. Rising gasoline prices, rising energy costs generally, and concern (whether misplaced or valid) about Global Warming are making some people re-evaluate their lifestyles. More and more people are deciding they would like to drive less. The problem is, contemporary American society is built around the automobile. I see no harm — and a lot of potential good — to allowing developers to invent new kinds of places to live. Lewenz’ villages are just such a place. As long as no one is coerced into living a particular way, you should have no problem with it.

    Indeed, if developers started building lots and lots of Lewenzian villages, you — yes, you — would benefit indirectly. That would mean fewer people driving cars, which means cheaper gasoline and less congestion for everyone else. Why do you not welcome this partial antidote to our woes?

  20. DrPhilster Avatar

    These villages already exist in America in droves. They are called college campuses. Look at VT or UVa or any other campuses and you can’t take a car anywhere near them unless you are an elite. They have parking lots on the periphery and specialty vehicles for maintenance staff and buses to move people. They are no longer integrated communities since Faculty rarely live on campus or do so in such small numbers it is meaningless. But they do show what a community would look like and all the problems they create which mostly have to do with cars since the people who work there can not afford to live anywhere near there. This usually applies to anyone below the rank of Professor.

  21. E M Risse Avatar
    E M Risse

    Two quick points:

    In addition to all the “times-are-a-changing” points that Jim Bacon correctlly makes, there is one other:

    Only about one quarter of the Households are home to minor children.

    The big reason why Single Household Detach (SHD) Units are said to be great is so children have places to run and play.

    As pointed out in “A Yard Where Johnny and Run and Play” 1 Dec 2003 this is a Myth but that aside, there is no “reason” to build SHDs for the other 75 percent of the Households unless they want them and are willing to pay for them.

    As we note in “Two Spheres of Housing Fraud” it should now be clear to all that even if Households beleived it was a good idea to live in a SHD, way over half of the economic food chain cannot afford to pay the current cost and that is before all the location-variable costs are allocated.

    There are two choices:

    Really big subsidies and expand the number of SHDs.

    Let the market speak and have fewer.

    By VaTech Prof. Arthur C. Nelson’s calculations there will be 22 Million large SHDs surplus by 2025. That is 40 percent of the SHDs that exist today.

    Could it be the 12 1/2 Percenters are trying to prop up the market with words until they can bail out?


    “These villages already exist in America in droves. They are called college campuses.”

    Is a perfect reason why those who discuss human settlement patterns need to use a percise Vocabulary.

    The campus of an Institution, Agency or Enterprise is not a Village.


  22. Anonymous Avatar

    “I would imagine that most would be in-fill or re-development.”

    You have some imagination.

    Look at the bright side. Those parking lots would make the perfect urban growth boundary.


    “These villages already exist in America in droves. They are called college campuses.”

    the doctor is exactly right. Look at SMU (Southeasten Massachusetts University), not the other one. A little collection of buildings, surrounded by parking lots. GMU, much the same. Shenandoah college, Amherst, more of the same. Some of these are much more of a village than others, but they point out exactly the problem.

    The campus of an Institution, Agency or Enterprise is not a Village in the sense that you never leave there. It’s a village that exists for a part time purpose. Like most everything else.

    When you switch purposes, yo uswitch venues, and you need to travel.


  23. Anonymous Avatar

    “wants to cram thousands into little hovels”?

    Ever seen a high rise slum? Now THERE is something to give the fire truck guys heartburn.


  24. Anonymous Avatar

    “the current land taken up by NYC is only 303 Sq. Mi.”

    Yep, and the residents are adamantly opposed to new development. New York could be well improved if it used a couple hundred more square miles.

    If we use up enough farms, maybe the ones that are left can make some money.


  25. Claude L Avatar
    Claude L

    Good afternoon Gentlemen (and Ladies, if any present in this forum),

    I’m the author. Claude

    From time to time I do a Google search on the book to see what is online, and am delighted to see that Jim Bacon’s piece is online, snapped up by Google and has stimulated such debate. In order to keep the dialogue focused to the subject matter, I thought it may be helpful to set out a few boundary conditions:

    1. If one must have an adjective, let’s use Parallel Villages, rather than Lewenzean Villages. They will exist in parallel with many other forms of habitat.

    2. The prime intent is to offer an alternative to the new suburban development. Suburbs were invented to sell cars. This model is intended to provide for quality of life. Different intent, different outcome. Repeat – alternative to new suburban development.

    3. The comparisons with cities, college campuses etc are not speaking to the subject. Ditto: “give me a home, a barn and 50 acres”. You can buy a 51 acre farm, home and barn in Sedley VA for $389,000 but you will have a whole different life experience, especially when you get too old to drive. The Village is not for everyone. It’s for people who want more choice than they have now. It’s an alternative to suburbs.

    4. I am not proposing to retrofit existing communities like Tyson’s Corner to make them car-free. Too hard, too expensive. Let someone else write that book. My target is simple. Instead of building a new greenfield suburb, build a far more compact Village and use the leftover land as greenspace. It’s not a new idea. Go visit Gettysburg and imagine it before cars were invented. Attached 2 and 3 story brick housing with storefronts below, pedestrian paced and still has its greenbelt thanks to the battle zone and the fact that Baltimore sprawl is still about 30 miles away. It’s not a perfect example, but hopefully you get the idea. For world-travelers, Europe has better examples.

    5. Regarding the greenbelt and buying development rights from surrounding farms… Not all Parallel Villages will have them. Because the core design requires a local economy, it means the Village can leap frog suburban sprawl. Once one gets beyond the sprawl zone, what once were thriving small towns and strong farming communities are now economic backwaters. The local economy means in some cases a Village can be placed in a rural area two hours from the city and revive a whole county that is currently suffering. The Village brings a new market for farm produce, and we suggest to keep it that way, use some of the development profits to buy farmers’ development rights so the Village’s success of does not foster its own sprawl. But don’t get fixated on this feature – it’s entirely situational. You can build a Village in the middle of a rust-belt city – it’s called brownfield development.

    6. One writer seems to be confusing “average” with “minimum”. The “average” 2005 purchase price for a home in Auckland NZ, where I live is NZ$500,000. In England the average price is £200,000. In Fairfax VA the average price in 2005 was US$400,000. (Coincidentally, based on today’s exchange rate, all three averages are equal). My price projection presumes that the unrestricted home prices will be comparable to the average for that region… a reasonable starting point for a sound business plan. The market will determine the prices.

    7. The proposal for parallel real estate markets actually came from Baltimore (although our adaptation is more market oriented), where they created artist housing in what then was a slum. Only artists could buy them. Of course any artist who objects is not compelled to buy a parallel market home. Pay the full market price like everyone else… if you can afford it. The goal was minimum regulatory overhead while avoiding gentrification and keeping the economy functioning. If someone has a better model, I’d love to hear it.

    8. Regarding “a person would have to sign covenants, deeds and all sorts of other restrictive conditions to live there”. Actually no. The deed would empower local governance, like in a condo association, and the conditions set would be no different, except with better checks and balances (thank you Thos. Jefferson).

    9. There is no proposal for shared cars, although residents can do so if they want. The proposal to get out of the Village is to have a motorpool. You can rent or buy a space for your own car, or you can rent a car… just like Hertz or Rent-a-Dent. It will be run as a business based on supply and demand. The difference is that for day-to-day chores, no car needed.

    10. The comments on fire and ambulance apparatus is a significant area of concern where I would invite more dialogue, please. Dr. Philster wrote “Real problem with this whole issue the design by Fire Truck and EMS crowd. Without serious changes in state law limited either the size of their vehicles or their reveiw power this can never get past an academic discussion into the real world of the Old Dominion

    How likely is this to be an immovable obstacle?

    Let’s put it in this context. If a corporation announced it was looking nationwide for a site to locate a new industry where it would have an appraised capital value of $1 billion and bring in 2,000 new jobs paying around $100 million per year, but it needed some concessions, what would the state and the target country do?

    Let’s do some back-of-envelop calculations: A 10,000 person Village is likely to need 4,000 homes, 2,000 commercial spaces plus an industrial zone and public buildings. If the average home sale price in Fairfax is $400,000 then we can reasonably project the Village at $1 to 2 billion in capital value. To be conservative, let’s take the low number. 2,000 commercial spaces means at least 2,000 jobs and the 2005 average household income in Fairfax was $86,888. Let’s round it down to $50,000. That gives you $100 million a year in direct new jobs. I’ll let the Chamber of Commerce do the Total Economic Impact on the regional economy. My numbers are enough to have state and country officials become interested, if their performance to woo industry investment to their region is anything to go by. The name of the game is concessions.

    So we propose to build a parallel village that hit or exceed those numbers. Further, it will not require significant upgrading the surrounding infrastructure, except for broadband and perhaps upgrading a local airfield for parcel delivery and villagers needing to make connections to a major airport. It will not pollute. It will become a cultural and visitor attraction. It will solve a host of local economic and social challenges for the County. And of course, it will have a huge economic spillover into the County’s economy that we didn’t even bother calculating. And all buildings will be fireproof, no higher than 4 story and if need be have sprinklers and hoses on every block.

    Now the core question

    Would the state and the county be sufficiently turned on by the prospect to allow specially built small fire and ambulance apparatus used only for the narrow roads, or would they say, no… forget it we don’t want it? Would they change the laws, or get creative and define the Village like they do with shopping malls? Ever seen a fire truck or EMS van driving down the center isle of a shopping mall? Of course not, they walk in with hoses or equipment.

    I’m asking the question in all sincerity, because we need to determine where we will focus attention… because for us, the book is not just another document of good ideas. It’s the centerpiece of an industry we are putting together. I am the only American on the team, I come from Baltimore and my mother’s ancestors are said to have landed in Jamestown VA long before the Revolution. I would like to have some of our work focus on America, but if we find politics or bureaucracy is too difficult, we will invest elsewhere. At this point the Australians are kicking the door down. Here in New Zealand a local district council read the book and seven days later came back with thumbs up… they are working on the rule changes at this very moment. I would like to see America consider the Parallel Village idea, but if it becomes clear that America’s bureaucracy and vested interest groups are not only in charge but are intransigent, I doubt my colleagues will see any sense in investing there.

    I put some time into writing this commentary because we are in the process of putting together the next step – it’s not a talkfest for us. I have followed Jim Bacon’s dialogues for some time, and find he attracts a well informed constituency where ideas get not only a good hearing, but a robust testing.

    We need that, especially because this is a mainstream proposal that must be tested by all sectors of the socio-political spectrum.

    Your views will be welcome and they will be read.

  26. Anonymous Avatar

    “Instead of building a new greenfield suburb, build a far more compact Village and use the leftover land as greenspace. “

    Use WHOSE leftover land as greenspace? If the greenspace is considered part and parcel of the village, then village owners should expect to pay for it.

    Buying a farmers development rights does NOTHING for him. What he needs is steady cash flow with PROFITS. Produce for a village won’t cut it, because you can grow all the produce a person needs in a hundred square feet.

    Those places you called thriving small towns and strong farming communities were ALWAYS a struggle. I’ve got the farm and business records from a small town to show it. Thinking they were once better off than now and had an easier life is just wrong. Sure, I spend time and money commuting: I’d spend more time and more money and have less to show for it if I stayed home and worked the farm full time.

    I agree with the village idea, and I have promoted it here, but Gettysburg, Warrenton, and smaller places like the Plains, Little Washington, and marshall, are not self sufficient with their residences over stores. They need jobs or income from outside.

    The average household income in Fairfax does NOT depend n commercial spaces, if it did, it would be a lot lower.

    This is a nice idea, but it needs a lot more work.

  27. Accurate Avatar

    Hello Claude –
    As I’ve already stated, I basically abhor a development such as this, but I’m not writing this to belabor that point, instead I will address two other items.

    First, the fire protection problem. I work as a building inspector/plans examiner. We (and the fire department) are anything BUT thrilled about building buildings close together; however we also recognize that it does and is going to happen. The major consideration that typically has to happen when you build too close together and/or with narrow streets is that the abodes (can’t stand to call them residences) need to be sprinklered. A move that most of would love to see regards of how the home is built. In detached SFH the amount of damage that is mitigated by sprinklers is HUGE; to be honest most building departments would LOVE to see ALL dwelling places have this type of fire protection.

    Now to point number 2 – this is where I see so many shortcomings regarding your ‘village’ idea. Many people, including (evidently) yourself, get all caught up in this telecommuting idea, the idea that each ‘village’ can be more or less self-sustaining. I disagee, what about all the ‘small stuff’ the stuff you need once in a while, but for a person to attempt to make a living off it wouldn’t pan out? Locksmith, plumber, drywall finisher, window installer to name a few. Another ‘problem’ that I see is the lack of competition, if you have a plumber in a ‘village’ of 10,000 do you think a second or third plumber will be able to make a living there? If not, then are the people basically held hostage to whatever prices the plumber wants to charge? What about new construction or major remodels (or is the verboten?) if you make the streets too narrow, construction equipment would not be able to fit so certain remodels will be either impossible or prohibitively expensive (the more manual labor, the higher the costs). Obviously I’m coming at this from a ‘trades’ position, I’m familiar with it; but I’m sure there are many other areas that you could look at and apply the same questions to – example, how many grocery stores would a 10,000 person village be able to sustain, and the price question comes up again. Also grocery stores and even farmers markets need to have access for trucks to get the goods to and from the store/marketplace. Bakeries, basically anything you can think of typically uses MOTOR VEHICLES to bring in supplies … your solution to that?

    As stated before, I would find living in such a situation an abomination. However, I do recognize that we are all different and like different things. I truly can’t imagine too many of these things becoming successful. If I ever end up in one, I hope my Alzheimer’s has kicked in to where it’s all new and different each and every day – that is about the ONLY way that I believe I could stand living in such a situation.

    Best Regards

  28. Claude L Avatar

    Good Evening “Accurate”

    Your views as a professional American building inspector are of interest to me.

    But first I should explain that while the book has seen a strong international reception, I am taking especial interest in Jim Bacon’s forum because his audience is different. The other day one of my colleagues told me he gave a copy to Al Gore at the Ted Conference. While any celebrity reading my book is good news, Mr. Gore’s audience with its green tinge seems over-represented at present, and I don’t find the book or the ideas get a particularly challenging review from that constituency. Permit me to explain:

    Someone recently pointed me to Abu Dhabi’s proposed new city. Looking at Masdar’s headline goals, they propose to become the first carbon-neutral, waste-free, car-free city. These are what one would call the driving principles that underlie their vision. Hmmm. If I recall my history correctly, in 400 BC (before coal & oil, before plastic and packaging and before cars) ancient Athens was for the most part a carbon-neutral, waste-free, car-free city. Yet we don’t judge Athens (or any great historic city) by those absent negatives, we remember it for its philosophy, architecture, sculpture, geometry, astronomy, drama and political systems to name but a few… what I call Quality of Life.

    I observe that after I began the book, a new trend emerged… let’s call it Environmentally Correct (EC) in the same vein as Politically Correct (PC). To EC folk, I ask “If tomorrow someone invented a way to zero out all manmade carbon dioxide and reverse the atmosphere back to before the industrial revolution, would we have solved all our environmental, social, cultural, economic and spiritual challenges?

    I accept that three generations burning resources that scientists say took millions if not billions of years for earth to grow is not smart. I agree that asking nature to deal with the concentrations of stuff we dig out of the earth, make into new compounds and then dump makes us rich, but may be a mortgage for future generations. But in seeking solutions, I look for new ways of thinking, not the predictable polarization of red states and blue states that seems endemic in the PC/EC debate.

    Therefore, I value Jim’s forum as it seems to be devoid of PC and EC, and for this reason, I will give it more of my time (admittedly after hours when business is over and the family asleep). Now back to your comments:


    A few questions if I may…

    So that I understand the forum, have you read the book, or am I answering in an environment of conjecture?*

    I ask because, for example, on page 208 I quote the complete fire call out record from the Dorset Fire & Rescue Service for Poundbury England for the previous ten years. They list five callouts and no house fires. Why? Nothing to burn except furniture and dinner (one of the five was “unattended cooking”, another was “fire in a microwave oven”). Poundbury was a model village we studied, and I visited twice, once in 2000 and again in 2006.

    If the buildings are constructed out of a bulk material that is not burnable (including interior walls, insulation, beams, joists, roof tiles, ground and upper floors), and exterior walls have over a five hour fire rating would that affect your professional view? If the interiors were sprinkled would that solve the concerns? Note that in elder housing, smoke alarms will be connected to the stove – shutting it off in the event the elder fell asleep with the stove on.

    In regards to your second point, since I am using this forum as a dialogue site, I will address it further even though the book covers it in detail… indeed it is a core element of the Village.

    The critical mass of 5,000 to 10,000 persons is based on long-standing research about what is needed to support local businesses. A community of 1200 can support one general store. A community of 5000 can support several streets of businesses.

    Chapter 5: The Local Economy devotes 20 pages to the question. In summary, the Village must have at least 20% of its economy as “money importers” meaning they sell goods or services “local to global” (L2G), and then considerable attention is paid to creating a strong “local to local” (L2L) economy. The L2G will, for the most part, rely on telephone, broadband and long-distance shipping and travel. Your question addresses the L2L. But rather than quote theory, let me look up some of your local to local examples in my local yellow pages. To demonstrate the importance of critical mass, where I live, a community of 7500, it has:

    9 plumbing companies
    1 large supermarket
    6 grocery stores
    2 bakeries (plus two wholesale bakers)
    1 butcher shop
    3 window installing companies
    7 drywall contractors (not including the ones who don’t advertise)
    Local vendors who overcharge go out of business because in a small community like mine, greed has a much shorter half life.

    Regarding street width, are we on the same page? What are you imagining the Village would specify in terms of street width? All buildings must have on one side, one street large enough to support construction (how can we build them otherwise?).

    The maximum width of an on-road motor vehicle in the USA is 8 feet, yet taking a Virginia city at random, the Town of Round Hill Development Office states “4.1.4 Streets shall have at least a minimum width of right-of-way of fifty (50) feet unless otherwise required by the Virginia Department of Transportation or the Planning Commission.” During construction, a Village street must be able to enable one standard construction vehicle to park (allow 10 feet in width) and another construction vehicle to pass driving under 7 mph (12 feet), plus sidewalks for pedestrians (4 feet on both sides) and door steps that protrude (think Baltimore city) (3 feet both sides). That comes to 36 feet (11 meters), 14 feet narrower than Round Hill allows (and our 36 feet may be even narrower if we use a different construction methodology). What issues would you see emerging if one were to attempt this in Virginia? I note that there is provision for “private streets” under Virginia law. Would this allow narrower streets? Are street widths a matter of non-negotiable state law, or does the local government decide?

    On the transport question please see chapter 7: Local Transport Area – An essential component of the Village. It should answer your questions about how supplies get delivered from the open road to the resident’s home.


    Quick answers to anonymous

    As with the above, have you read the book, or are my answers addressed in a vacuum?*

    Greenspace In a conventional suburban development X acres of land is purchased and housing/streets generally cover all of it in a low-density plan. In a Village the same X acres is purchased by the developer, but because the Village is not machine scaled, density is higher and therefore the built-land is more compact. The remaining land is developed as greenspace. This land is deeded to the Village Corporation (whose stockholders are the home owners) for such use in perpetuity. The villagers do pay for it similar to the way that buyers of homes in some gated golfing communities pay for the greens… it’s part of the amenity that sells the homes.

    Farmers Buying development rights gives the farmer cash now. Cash is something; it helps pay down the bank debt most family farms carry or it provides an unexpected nest egg to help when a bad season hits. The Village contracting with the farmer on a long term basis, with guaranteed prices provided food is delivered, gives the farmer reliable profits. Both my wife and I come from long standing farming families and I agree, it was not easier in the old days, but they were solid… all the way up to my generation, when for the family farmers (except curiously the Amish neighbors) everything turned to custard. (And no, I am not glorifying Amish life… I just marveled at how prosperous their farms looked in contrast to the “normal” farms next door).

    Small towns You may misunderstand my examples, such as Gettysburg (which my ancestors settled before the Revolution). I was giving an example of street-front brick architecture and attached housing and a still extant greenspace (thanks to the battlefields). Imagine how such a place would feel if there were no cars on those streets (as in 1880) and that gives an idea of the scale of a car-free street and a community with a clearly demarcated boundary.


    * Lest people think my asking “have you read the book” is a shameless pitch to make sales, please note that on the web site there is a selection allowing one to read (in low resolution) the whole book on-line, free.

    In my view, success will not be judged on how many books I sell, but how many Villages get built… and yes, I want to live in one of them. When I could not find such a place, I saw I would need to build it, and I can’t get there unless everyone else understands what it is about. So first I wrote the book, and now I am putting together the funding to make them happen.

    Enough words for now. Goodnight.


  29. E M Risse Avatar
    E M Risse



    You face the same problems we do.

    I like your opening to responses: “Have you read our book or are am I answering in a vacume.”

    As your response about fireproof building materials shows, it is far too often a vacume.

    We post at Bacons Rebellion to learn how to respond to:

    RHTCs — those who are Running as Hard as They Can to keep their head above the economic tide. They have no time to think of their own long term self interest and that of their Household, Agency, Enterprise or Institution.


    12 1/2 percenters who are trying to justify their past decisions and/or hope they can prop up the market for Single Household Detached dwellings until they can sell.

    Also be aware that there are some who are paid to obfuscate anything you and others say to prolong the run of Business-As-Usual.

    There are also some who are just trying to figure out what makes sense.

    It is hard to find them because the prior three groups try to pretend they are one of those without a mean dog in the fight.

    Finally there are those of us who agree with much of what Jim Bacon beleives.

    I think you would like our four column Backgrounder THE PROBLEM WITH CARS that wrapped up in the Monday issue of Bacon’s Rebellion with “Space to Drive and Park.”

    I look forward to completing your book. It has a lot of great ideas, fine pictures and often reflects our experience in travel. There will be a review of it in our forthcoming TRILO-G.

    Keep up the good work and best of luck.


    water Our book was written eight years ago

  30. Anonymous Avatar

    “ancient Athens was for the most part a carbon-neutral, waste-free, car-free city.”

    Nonsense. And irrelevant.

    Rmember, Rome had congestion ordinances long before cars. And elaborate waste removal facilities. They also had slaves. London had air pollution and “carbon reduction” edicts in, what, 1150?

    Show us how this will work in our world.


  31. Anonymous Avatar

    “the same X acres is purchased by the developer, but because the Village is not machine scaled, density is higher and therefore the built-land is more compact. The remaining land is developed as greenspace. This land is deeded to the Village Corporation “

    I have no problem with this, but it means that each home is going to purchase as much land as they might other wise. As a result, the land and cost “savings” usually advertized are mostly moot. It is not exactly a way to save the family farm.

    However, it is a far superior solution compared to whatt we do now, which is to claim the land for public purpose and ownership through zoning and growth restictions, which mean that, unlike your example, the people that need that greenspace don’t pay for it. —- Congratulations.


  32. Anonymous Avatar

    “Buying development rights gives the farmer cash now.”

    I’ll tell you again. Buying development rights from the farmer does NOTHING for him in the long run. In fact it is WORSE than nothing. Anybody who remotely believes this, hasn’t thought it through, and the reasons are so obvious I shouldn’t have to elaborate.

    “guaranteed prices provided food is delivered, gives the farmer reliable profits.”

    It does not. Anyone who thinks this is remotely true understands nothing.

    If the village expects to take out all the increase in land value, forever, by simply making a one time purchase of development rights, and secure low or guaranteed food prices in the bargain, then they are sadly mistaken.

    You need a plan by which farmes can share in the developed wealth and not be excluded from it. To the extent that land is protected, it increases the value of the remaining land, and that increase is exponential over time. How does the farmer benefit from this continuing sacrifice?

    Yes, farms were (relatively) solid in the old days, but you have to asks why. It was because they were an OK deal compared to the alternatives. It was because land was cheap. It was because you could, as my father-in-law did, get a farmhand for $400 a year plus a pig and a cottage to sleep in. It was because you could get a pickup truck for the price of forty pigs: now its more like 4000 pigs. Today, I couldn’t get a permit for the cottage for a farmhand, even if I could find someone to live in it.

    Unless the village is willing to support the farmers at a level similar to other occupations, they are not going to have farmers. As long as operating profits are under $200 an acre, there is not going to be enough money to keep them around, let alone keep the land around.

    Your thoughts under the heading farmer are mostly wishful thinking. I wish they were true, too, but they arent. On average, every farm in a five county area around me loses $2000 a year. A handfull of large farms make money, primarily because they get 90% of the subsidies. A handful of niche operations make money, but they are easily overrun by competition. Most get by on operating costs, and support the land with outside income.

    Even in the “good old days” farms got by by subdividing. Our present family farm was once part of an original parcel that now includes maybe a hundred farms. When you look at the records of the reamaining manor houses, you see that almost allof them changed hands under adverse financial conditions.

    In Fairfax county, farm and forestry workers earn the lowest average salaries – by a factor of 100. Today’s conditions are not what they were.

    This part of your thinking needs to go back to the drawing board.


  33. Anonymous Avatar

    “Imagine how such a place would feel if there were no cars on those streets (as in 1880) and that gives an idea of the scale of a car-free street and a community with a clearly demarcated boundary.”

    Like I said, Rome had congestion statues. When I imagine how such a place would feel, I imagine how I would feel if I had to walk to the barn everytime I need something from there.

    Gettysburg gets away with this because of the battlefields, which they don’t have to pay for or support.

    I’ve lived in such places. Vineyard Haven is an eminently walkable town, protected on three sides by water. I see the value in your vision, and I also see what it is missing. On balance, it doesn’t weigh out, in my opinion and my observation. It is a good idea that needs a LOT more work, and a lot more careful understanding.


  34. Anonymous Avatar

    I don’t get paid by anyone for my views, unlike EMR. I’m not fond of denigrating other people’s motives, and I expect no less from them.

    I have no dog in the fight, but that I resent people promoting policy based on reasoning that I believe is faulty. Particularly, if I believe that someone knows they are using faulty reasoning, and they use it to promote unfair policy for political reasons. In this case, THEY are the ones with a dog in the fight, and ulterior motives.

    I believe the New Zealand is on the right track with many of their policies which is epitomized over all by the phrase Economy, Environment, Equality.

    I don’t believe you can make any one work, without each of the others. I have the same problem with the guy who wants unfair advantage to prop up the market for SFH as I have for the guy who wants unfair advantage to promete walkable villages and kill the auto.

    Overall, I wouldn’t take EMR’s characterization of those that write here very seriously.


  35. Claude L Avatar

    Dear Jim and Ed,

    I have a proposal.

    If you find the ideas put forth in the book to be of sufficient merit (as our intent is to actually cause Villages to be built, not just pontificate), would you consider setting up a distinct forum on Bacon’s Rebellion in which informed people of all persuasions are invited to debate the principles and ideas set forth?

    Unlike this blog where anyone who can read the word verification can make a post… of which some are flamers (see Wikipedia “Flaming”)… I would suggest that while the forum can be read by anyone, that you actually recruit informed commentators to engage in an online roundtable. If someone wants to participate that you have not invited, they must ask to join and show where their views will be helpful… or send in email questions just as is done in public meetings where the audience puts questions to the moderator for those at the table. In this way, we avoid the lazy commentators who, it seems have more time on their hands than they know what to do with, and bring an attitude that is less than helpful. And I would suggest the first rule would be that at a minimum commentators read the book so we are all on the same page (noting it can be read for free on-line).

    I am finding that as author, when I present the book in public speaking events and elsewhere, I seem to have tapped into a deep level of both concern and enthusiasm. I attribute this in part to how I approached the subject – as if no one had ever asked the questions before, and only going to the literature after completing that first part of the research. In most cases, it seems in this industry we see progress by tweaks… adjusting the status quo, and slowly turning in direction. In contrast, I started outside the industry with a blank sheet, and began by asking ordinary people what they needed and they wanted. I then went into to the field to find places where things seemed to work, and asked “why?”.

    The upshot is that the book does not fit into a neat package. It is not Green, Red or Blue, although it does have elements of each of them. This has its advantages, but it also suggests now that it is out in the marketplace, it will need a robust debate so that many minds (and hearts) tease it out. This especially is the case for different countries. For example RH writes about farms in his area being money losers. This needs exploration, as down in New Zealand farming is our biggest industry, very profitable… and gets no government subsidies or protections anymore. When the government (or the UK) pulled the plug, farmers had to reinvent themselves, and they succeeded. Obviously this is not the case in Virginia, so it would be helpful to explore why.

    Having followed your work since its inception I see where Bacon’s Rebellion might make an excellent forum – not run by me or my people (as in but where I come in from time to time as a participant. It would be most helpful because the subject of real estate development traditionally has been the domain of those of a more conservative persuasion, and there is no question that my book and our venture is about real estate development.

    I look forward to your thoughts.


    PS: I considered sending this to you as a private email, but concluded it may merit discussion herein.

  36. Jim Bacon Avatar
    Jim Bacon

    Claude, I am open to maintaining a forum on any topic for which there is sufficient demand. I have no problem in principle with creating an invitation-only forum. But as much as I find the ideas in “To Build a Village” to be refreshing and stimulating, they are so far out of the mainstream here in Virginia at present that I suspect it would be difficult to maintain sustained interest in a dialogue.

    I can imagine mining the book for ideas from time to time and posting them on the Bacon’s Rebellion blog for discussion, but that’s as far as I see it going right now. To create a dedicated forum would require a lot of legwork: reaching out to local planners, real estate developers, architects & engineers and others who could bring well-informed knowledge to bear. That’s more than I can take on right now. Perhaps you and I can exchange ideas offline on how to build up, where the dialogue logically should take place.

  37. Anonymous Avatar

    To sell your ideas, first win over the flamers.

  38. Anonymous Avatar


    Well, since I am one that disagreed with you most vehemently, I’ll assume you think I’m a flamer.

    If you want to take this off line, then send your phone number to Jim Bacon, and he can forward it to me. I’ll pick up the tab for the call.

    If you want to sit around and discuss matters with only those who agree with you, then knock yourself out.

    Since your last post, I’ve received and read several of my farm magazines. The following quote should be of coniderable interest, because it supports the views of many on this blog.

    “Higher fuel prices are also putting some tension on residential sales, because of commute time and distance.”


    This from a real estate agent who specializes in farm and country properties.

    He also points out that a large percentage of sales involve 1031’s. People are trading up from their city residences and trading in on rural areas. “Buyers want tracts of 200 acres or more – for recreational use and hunting.”

    With reference to Jim’s recent trip, the author notes that few areas have been as hot as real estate Outside Atlanta. Otherwise known as sprawl capital of the world.

    I take no position as to whether this is good or bad. I just present the facts,as i collect them.

    A separate article in the same magazine is entitled “Can High-Priced Ag Land Cash flow?”

    The answer is unequivocably, no.

    I have in my posession an article from the South Carolina Dept. of Agriculture. It says that when Ag land is valued at more than $6500 per acre, the owner is better off to sell it and invest in government bonds than he is to farm it.

    That was several years ago.

    The article in this months magazine concludes that conditions have chandged enough (including fuel prices, and the data is several months old already) that a farmer today is nuts to buy (or retain) property valued at more than $4500 per acre.

    There has NEVER been a five year period in history when grain prices could support the purchase of land in the range of $4500 to $7500 with 65% to 75% debt.

    Listen up, Larry. At those prices you are far better off to rent land to farm, than to buy.

    But, that still means that SOMEONE is speculating on the land.

    What all this means is that anyone who sells his development rights at todays prices (around here they are priced, by the government, not the market at $30,000) has got more rocks in his head than in his fields.

    Besides which we have a small ethical problem. We have already downzoned thousands of (previously existing) development rights. now we propose to buy the ones that remain. Presumably, that means we stole the ones that were never paid for.

    Farms live on their ability to borrow. Generally, if you sell your development rights, you have to place a constraint on your ownership rights, and this affects the value you can borrow against.

    Ask your bank about this. Your loss of borrowing power can easily exceed the value you recieved for a development right.

    Not only that, but the development right pays you nothing for the other value you might have recieved if exercised: the profit on your labor, and the increased value due to integration. In short, the purchase of development rights situation (as presentlly presented) is the biggest screw job for farmers since the dust bowl.

    The sales pitch for this is utterly and completely wrong.

    EMR wil say that I only talk this way because of selfish self interests.

    Sorry, I’m not going to apologize.

    But, I’m not crazy; when some other lunatic proposes a grand scale reorganization that offers me a better situation than the one I’m in, then THAT lunatic will get my attention and support.

    Until then, I’m the one that pays the monthly bills for the last 17 years. I know what pays and waht doesn’t. I have neighbors and friends that make more money with less land. If I had more capital and less land, I could make money too, but that option is prohibited,

    If I had a lot more land, I MIGHT be able to make money, with enough government subsidy. The top ten percent grossing farms in my county (and many others) collect 90% of the farm subsidies.

    Surprisingly, that does NOT mean they are corporate farms, other than the fact they are family corporations.

    Nearly half of all farm sales come from farms with anual sales of $1 million or more. That sounds pretty good until you realize thei net is less than 5% of sales. Try runiing a million dollar business for $50,000 net when the up fron investment is $20 million, plus five or ten years.

    You would have to be crazy.

    It gets worse.

    There are 3400 farms in the U. S. that produce more than $5 million in sales. They account for more that 25% of the U. S. market. They are overwhelmingly located in California, Washington, and Oregon.

    3400. What chance does that leave for a guy like me, trying to rehabilitate and recycle an old family farm, where land is MUCH more valuable? Where every effort I make to improve the farm is taxed as income every year, even though it is really capital. Sometimes, sweat equity capital. Things I built out of nothing, are now taxed as capital improvements.

    And, it wouldn’t be so bad, if rural taxes were devoted to rural services, but instead, they subsidize EMR’s home in town, along with many others.

    My county including a number of officials (and a number of spokesmen for the special interests that support them) goes out of its way to say that we need to save these farms becxause they pay $2.00 in taxes for every $1.00 in services they get.

    My position is pretty simple: if you really want to save us, then why tax us at twice what we cost?

    I have heard the canned speech you give above about how purchase of development rights “helps” farmers from so many different sources that I have to think that either it is a conspiracy or else the people who repeat it are stupid beyond belief.

    That is not how it works in the real world.

    I have issued this challenge before. So far, no one has taken me up on it. ANYONE, who believes as you do is welcome to come and work on the farm, and I will share with them whatever they net, with the bulk going to them. Generally speaking, that means they will pay me, because the net is negative.

    The only people who take me up on this are those that want deer hunting or firewood. I have yet to have an environmentalist show up, but I turn away developers consistently.


    If I sound a little upset, it’s because I am. In Loudoun county horse country, they are facing record forclosures on horse estates.

    If they can’t sell them to a bigger sucker with a bigger (sub prime) jumbo loan, what do you suppose will happen?

    “Higher fuel prices are also putting some tension on residential sales, because of commute time and distance.”

    What will happen is that the price of such places will fall until the cost of commuting to a place where jobs pay enough to support thmeewualizes out.


    The counties will alow them to subdivide, which raises the price.


    We could move the jobs that support them, and call it an environmental initiative.

    It is pretty simple. If I could drive ten miles to work (or telecommute) instead of driving thirty, then my farm would instantaneously be worth $25 more per day. And I’d save another $20 on top of that.

    It ias ALMOST enough to pay the taxes.


    Which brings us to your historical analogies. I have the books on this farm dating back tens of decades. My father-in-law bought out his sister when they married and mved west (for cheaper land and more opportunity).

    He was able to pay off the mortgage and pay the taxes, based on farm income. (He also had a business in town and government retirement.)

    If I projected his sales forward to today, I could not even pay the taxes, let alone the mortgage he paid. One reason is that I send taxes to town to help pay EMR’s taxes.

    He was able to survive, and his wife after him, because he was allowed t subdivide. In today;s environment, my county supervisor told me to my face that HIS plans for (my wife’s) property was to have someone wealthy buy it so that they could afford to place it in easement.

    Well, it is pretty obvious that the tax and capital situation being what it is, that copnservation easment is worth a lot more to him than it is to me.

    In other words, I would be strk raving mad to sell my development rights for a (government mandated) price of $30,000 apeice, particularly since they already stole several hundred thousand worth (before they came to the realization that this is actually property eorth buying).

    Now, EMR reads all this as if I’m a selfish SOB looking to get windfall profits. I don’t see the “windfall” in it, since my wife’s ancestors strugged for generations to keep it. Paricularly since what they kept was already subdivided many times.

    We have proof of it because we still own one of the surveying instruments used by one of George Washington’s survwying parris in the area. The wner of that instrument was also an owner of the area that is now her farm – before it was (horrors) subdivided.

    AS I see it, the “windfall profits” will accrue to the property owners of the new villages you describe.

    (I have no doubt they will happen, one way or another. I think the economics are compelling, but not for the reasons some people think. Not for the reasons some others might like. I ust think the facts ae what they are, and people will make rational economic trades.)

    Thereason thaos windfll profits will accrure to the porpoerty owners of the villages you describe is tht they will not have to pay a fair price for the property they put out of service.

    Now, if it happens as you descrbe, and the villae buys land at fair value, then (based on current prices) a faremer who sells 200 acrew to the village could easily byuy 500 acres of truly productive farmland someplace else.

    But. that won’t hapen long, because,soon, the price of the replacement land (remember those 1031’s) will increase and the village will have to pay more to acquire what they need.

    And, they guy looking to swap out via a 1031 wll face a new dillemma concering what he can get now vs what he can get in the future. (Speculation).

    In other words, if you can’t keep the value of farms up, then you won’t have any.

    Unless you are willing to buy and trade them on a free market, purcahse of development rihts is a s dumb as toast. What this means is that zoning should be for sale.


    My other farm magzine had a nostalgia section. It had pictures of five people shoveling manure into a mule dran manure spreader.

    I have pictures of here onthe farm which show ten people, two trucks, and two horse drawn ahy wagons working the samefields I work today.

    If I worked the way those picuters show, I would be broke in ten minutes, today.

    Not counting liability and health care.

    So, any time you want to go toe to toe, nose to nose, with a flamer, ask Jim Bacon for my number.

    Yep, I’m a certifiable flamer: I use a famethrower to kill weeds because it doesn’t require the use of oranophosphates.

    As soon a someone convinces me that the carbon footprint of the flamethrower is worse in terms of social costs than the chemical herbicides, then I’ll quit using it.

    And go back to the herbicides.


    Any time you want a serious dose of farm reality as opposes to fantasy. Ask JB for my number. look up the Virginai Tech farm budgets before you do.


  39. Claude L Avatar

    Good Evening RH

    No, I did not consider you a flamer. Where Jim wrote “Darrell, your hostility to Lewenz’s ideas amazes me…” he was responding to what Wikipedia calls flaming, as one must presume the gentleman did not read the book before arguing straw dog fallacies.

    To the contrary, I am most interested in your farm views, as I live in a country that has made a successful business out of farming by eliminating farm subsidies, and about half of the food my family eats comes through a parallel system that eliminates supermarkets… abundant, higher quality foods at about 55% of retail. In visiting Italy, I was fascinated when my host told me Italian farmers are exempt from income tax. France hardly suffered in the Depression because they protect their food supply (and the taste is divine). But I need to learn more about Virginia small farms to understand the challenges needing to be overcome.

    What I do note with interest is the extent to which you cite subsidies, 1031’s, illogical taxation and other government interference. As I hear your explanation, local farming is not viable because the systems of governance have failed to deliver. This would be a pity if true. If true, can it be overcome? How?

    Already, we noted from your comments that if we negotiate for concessions in Virginia, we should add a negotiable that local zoning laws be rewritten to allow farm-hand housing on the local farms (a concession does not mean we get it, instead it means what we put on the table as a condition of deciding to select that county for a Village site). Perhaps we should also look at negotiating for zero property tax on the Village’s contracted food-supplying farms (collecting the tax from the Villagers’ properties instead). What else should become negotiable to level the playing field? I ask this question in all sincerity, indeed it is why I put the time into writing this reply to you. Try it this way: “If you had a magic wand that could change all the details that make farming not profitable and sustainable – what would the list contain? I.e What’s broken and how could it realistically be fixed (you can’t fix the weather, but you can switch to raised bed farming, for example).

    I will address some of your points below, but it would be helpful if you looked at pages 40-41, 79, 88-89, 92-95 and 111 in the book, as much of this is covered there.

    Farm borrowing – discussed in the book. We propose a farm bank, where consumers of the food who have discretionary savings provide the financing for the farm through what in effect is a credit union. This cuts the spread. In some cases consumers may chose to pre-buy food. This sometimes happens in New Zealand, and is a win-win. Of course it only works if the relationship is local.

    Farming viability. Consider the following: “The share of the average food dollar that America’s farm and ranch families receive has dropped over time, despite gradual increases in retail grocery prices. “If you look back to the mid-1970s, at that time farmers received an average of one-third of consumer retail food expenditures. That figure has dropped steadily over time and is now just 22 percent, according to Agriculture Department statistics”

    What happens to the other 78%? How far can we close the spread between what the farmer earns and the consumer pays? Can we close that gap and meet in the middle so the farmer earns more – a fair and stable profit, and the consumer pays less? Next, what can we do to help the farmers lower their production costs? It’s cheaper to save a dollar than earn one.

    We are doing in depth research on these questions, and the relationship between local farmer and the food consumer is a structural element in the Village. What happens, for example, when next to the mailbox, each home has a food delivery box? What is the impact on the 78% spread when the Village intranet (a computer terminal in every kitchen) has a sophisticated supply/order/delivery/ecommerce system joining via a delivery network the contracted farms to the consumer? What happens when the Village sells B100 biofuel made from its waste to the contracted farmers at cost, not market price of diesel?

    We are told that in places near the Bos-Wash corridor, few planners and land owners think about permanence. They presume that farmland will be converted to subdivisions, because they presume food produced thousands of miles away will be cheap because transport is cheap. We don’t make such presumptions. We ask if it makes more sense to eat local, eat fresh, eat diverse, eat seasonal, eat healthy and flavorful. And then we ask, what kind of infrastructure do we need to establish to accomplish it? And finally we ask what it will cost, and how to sustain permanent farm profits.

    This is a core difference in Village thinking – permanence. Coming from America to New Zealand it was quite a mind-shift the first time a Maori challenged me to develop plans for 7 generations. It was not rhetoric, they actually do it. In business I rarely projected out more than 12 months, 5 years was long range. They showed me the difference between creating wealth and mortgaging the future. They made it personal… what world I would leave to my grandchildren.

    Thus, a farmer who chooses to engage in a contract with the Village, in effect says, “I want this land to remain a farm… profitable, viable, sustainable.” And the Village then sets in place the infrastructure so the farmer’s local market is permanent. People have to eat, every day. You can’t get more permanent than that.

    This works in other countries. I look forward to hearing, precisely, the obstacles to making it happen in Virginia.

    Thanks for taking the time. Your information truly is helpful.

  40. Accurate Avatar

    Hello again Claude –

    Here to answer some questions –

    First, no have not read your book. I didn’t know it was available on line (thanks for the tip) and since I don’t share your views it would certainly never be a book that I’d buy. However, I will take some time and try to read the online version.

    Second – any plans examiner and/or Fire Marshall would be beside themselves with glee if buildings were built with both 5 hour fire walls AND sprinklers. I’m not sure what you would use for building materials that would be non-combustible, but merely having the other two would be overly sufficient.

    Third – the reason I asked/questioned about the street width (of course had to do with emergency vehicles and construction) was because the visions I had in my head were some streets so narrow that they resembled an alley or an old street in Spain or Italy where 3 people can’t stand side-by-side without touching the buildings.

    Last – I’m not a 12.5% person. I’m anything BUT a politically correct person and my idea regarding ‘living green’ is dealing with my own garbage but I HATE having the government continually shoving things down my throat. You talked about Athens and the things that city is remembered for and you qualified those things as ‘Quality of Life’. For me, working in a garden, raising my own crops and livestock, working on my own abode and my cars is Quality Of Life. Things I can touch, change, help myself and others with – that, to me, is Quality Of Life. To live in a small, multi-housing building would be closer to prison to me than any form of Quality Of Life.

    I will try to read your book on line. I could not disagree with more of EMR’s ideas (just to give you an idea where I’m at). I like recreation, living to work and play hard. There again, I live out west, we have lots of land here (regardless of the the greenies whine about, we still have LOTS of land). I’m all for living where you want to, be that a small ‘condo’ or apartment or be that 50 to 5000 acre homestead. However, when I see the government, driven by special interest groups (greenies, etc) pushing for laws and subsidies that heavily weigh for urban living, I get livid.

    I’ve lived in an urban setting for most of my life. I’ve lived in apartments (haven’t we all). I’ve lived in trailers. I’ve lived on both large and small farms. Urban living, for me, is at the absolute bottom of my list. I’d rather pitch a lean-to out in the woods, but that is just me. For those who embrace urban living, it sounds like might have some interesting ideas.

    Good Health.

  41. Claude L Avatar

    Good Morning Accurate,

    You asked: “I’m not sure what you would use for building materials that would be non-combustible”

    Our R&D group in Cairns (Australia) identified light-concrete as the optimal product. Not Autoclaved Aerated Concrete (AAC) but in-situ, molded, foam-injected concrete. To regular concrete with small-particle aggregate one injects a precise measure of what looks like shaving cream. The foaming agent assures the closed cell air bubbles disperse evenly. The more air, the lighter and less dense the mix, meaning less strength, but higher thermal/noise insulation (and fire rating) value as well as lower cost (air is free). The stone aggregate and cement are non-flammable and the insulative center part of the wall transmits heat slowly.

    In our system we build a thick wall (12”) with two vertical membranes about 1” in from the exterior and interior surfaces. We then run three hoses to parallel-pump the mix in-situ. The exterior and interior surface mix is high density (25% air). The internal mix (10”) is very low density (75% air). The web membrane allows the densities to interlock so the wall becomes a solid sandwich. Because air is free, we end up with costings comparable to a 4 inch tilt slab, but our system needs no additional layers like siding, plaster or wall board thus substantially lowering finishing costs. We recommend whitewash, distemper and clay based renders instead of paint – about $1 a gallon, low prep costs on re-paint and far more beautiful.

    While air is free, our R&D group is now testing CO² instead of air. Initial findings suggest the concrete cures faster and harder. If it proves to work the CO² cost will be higher, but will qualify for sequestration credits to offset the CO² inherent in cement manufacture.

    All pipes, wires, conduit, rebar, lintels, boxed doors and windows, etc are entombed in the pour, so the cost of fitting is substantially cheaper. The inner and outer molds are actually spaced up to 20″ apart, not 12″ because inside their flat surfaces we use custom carved detail panels so ornament such as a protruding window sill or a highly ornamented exterior wall become a part of the pour. This is done to enable architects and designers to produce a wide range of styles, thus avoiding the Soviet-housing look. We use large-bed 3D computer printers to carve the custom panels. High end designers can employ film-set makers to make clay/fiberglass panels to produce outcomes that look like elegant stone carving.

    The same light concrete is used for bond beams, lintels, concrete roof tiles, subfloors, etc. In effect we use one bulk material for all construction with a high volume plant set up in what later becomes the industrial zone. For people who want wooden floors we embed 2×3 wooden floor joists at appropriate spacing in the concrete subfloor only protruding enough to allow airflow (about ½”). While the wood floor is combustible, in this configuration it would be difficult to have a serious house fire. The same method would be used for rooms where the owner wants wood wall panels – light concrete behind and sprinklers mandatory.

    For all buildings we use underfloor hot-water heating in the subfloor – a system that can use heat-pump solar water heating. We intend to use the same heat pump for built-in food refrigeration rather than disposable refrigerators (see the issue of whiteware waste-disposal on page 113 of the book).

    Now my question: If all houses were built of this same material, so the only thing that could burn was the furniture and food, do you anticipate that we would encounter regulations or vested interest that could successfully block the development because of standing fire rules, even though there was nothing to burn? Would the resistance vary depending on state, and if so, what states should we avoid?

    8:32 AM Sunday Morning in New Zealand

  42. Jim Bacon Avatar
    Jim Bacon

    Claude, we’ve addressed the “Design by Fire Truck” issue (in a New Urbanism context) on this blog. (Type in “design by fire truck” into the search function at the top of the blog and you’ll find the entries.)

    Based on the comments and non-published email correspondence I’ve had with fire fighters, I suspect that sprinklers in every building would go a long way to alleviating the concerns of the firefighters. I don’t recall anyone raising the issue of non-flammable building materials, but that would have to make a difference, too.

    The biggest problem you’ll encounter is persuading American fire fighters that they can load up all the equipment they need on an electric-powered vehicle small enough to travel through pedestrian streets. Apparently, there are all manner of regulations specifying minimum requirements of fire-fighting vehicles. It seems that the insurance industry has a lot to say in the matter, so those larger interests, who play a role in getting regulations passed, will have to be placated.

  43. Claude L Avatar

    10:21 AM Sunday (NZ)

    Quick question Jim:

    Your Fire Truck issue says “County regulations called for turning radii of 25 feet, Seay said. No exceptions allowed.”

    Does this mean that if we make a concession demand that the County change its regulations for the Village because we will offer a different solution to accomplish the objective, the County has the final and full authority?

    What I am trying to assess is where decision-making authority lies in Virginia and other US states.

  44. E M Risse Avatar
    E M Risse

    Dear Claude:

    At 9:44 AM, Jim Bacon said:

    “Claude, I am open to maintaining a forum on any topic for which there is sufficient demand. I have no problem in principle with creating an invitation-only forum.”

    “But as much as I find the ideas in “To Build a Village” to be refreshing and stimulating, they are so far out of the mainstream here in Virginia at present that I suspect it would be difficult to maintain sustained interest in a dialogue.”

    It is easy to get lost in the numbers.

    Let me repeat an observation from a talk I gave last week on 11 strategies that a municipal Agency might undertake to prepare the 60,000 citizens in the jurisdiction for a sustainable future:

    “Some may say these strategies are 10 years ahead of the time and that ‘not 5 percent of the population in this Region is willing to consider alternatives to Business-As-Usual.’

    “OK! Five percent is 500,000 people. (The municipal jurisdiction is in the Washington-Baltimore New Urban Region which has about 10,000,000 citizens)

    “How many friends do you need?”

    There are over 7,000,000 citizens in VA and you only need one out of every 175,000 to form the leadership group and one member out of every 3,800 Households in the “Virginia media market” for each Parallel Village buildout.

    The issue is not the number that may be interested, the issue is how to reach them and get them to understand what you are offering, especially the RHAC’s or as Fahmah Mello calls them RAHATs. An open forum with flamers is not a way to reach those who want to help create an alternative, sustainable future.

    There is another aspect getting lost in the numbers and this underlies Geographic Illiteracy.

    There are over 20 million acres within 100 miles of the Centroids of the Washington-Baltimore New Urban Region. Many of the owners of large parcels of this land (enough to fill every Blog on the topic of human settlement patterns) is now convinced that they could make a killing selling their land for urban land uses. This is a sad illusion.

    If half this land was green and blue (open space and open land / water) and the remainder were developed at the minimum sustainable density for the 95% of the citizens who rely on urban activities for their livelihood (10 persons per acre at the Alpha Community scale) there would be space for 100,000,000 citizens.) If half the Villages in half the Alpha Communities were Parallel Villages the capacity could be around 150,000,000 citizens. Also note that much of the already urbanized land is already developed at higher densities. In other words half the population of the US of A could live in this area.

    From what I see your perspective on agriculture is far more realistic and sustainable than those who do not understand that the 95% of the citizens who are urban need (“can afford” if location-variable costs are fairly allocated) 1 / 100 of the land that citizens did for daily activities when 95% were non urban.

    “Farm magazines” are supported by advertising (promoting consumption) and subscriptions of “farmers” who like to buy publications that reinforce their preconceived notions.

    That said, the distribution of farm subsidies in the US of A would be considered a crime in many societies. So would subsidies for large Single Household Dwellings – the wrong size house in the wrong location.

    The market for shelter and commercial space proves that the majority understand reality, in spite of the subsides and even if the 12 ½ Percenters do not.

    One other numbers issue.

    Based on their prior statements every one of those who have identified themselves and posted negative comments on your ideas are, by definition 12 ½ Percenters. They live in urban Households but have chosen settlement patterns that do not meet the 87 ½ Percent Rule, the Fifth Natural Law of Human Settlement.


    “To first sell your ideas, first win over the flamers”

    That is exactly what the Business-As-Usual supporters of the flamers hope you will do:

    Spend your time and energy trying to convince those have, or think they have, a vested interest in seeing that your ideas never see the light of day.

    Also supporting this advice are the ad agencies and the PR firms that would love to have you pay them to change minds that are unchangeable.

    Twenty percent believe the world is flat and they will flame their flat earth ideas until they understand that they are wasting their time and effort.


  45. E M Risse Avatar
    E M Risse


    On the fire safety issue, you could negotiate to do your own Parellel Village fire code and with fire proof buildings, use fire carts, not trucks.

    There must be such equipment for historic buildings in Europe.


  46. Claude L Avatar

    8:03 PM Sunday NZ

    Good Evening Ed,

    Thank you for your comments.

    Winning over flamers, naysayers and the like is not a good use of our time and trying to sell people on an unfamiliar idea is like swimming in molasses – sticky and slow. Already in America, we find a strong market for the concept… as noted on page 222, we find the concept hits the criteria of Kevin Robert’s Lovemarks*. Our preliminary research suggests we have about 100 million people world-wide (not including China) who want to live in the form of habit we set out. They are, in effect, pre-sold as soon as they hear about the concept. If we can enrol just 1% of that target market in the idea they represent serious purchasing power. We view that process of reach-out as a wave that increases in energy. We call it connection marketing, where people tell other people they know, and invite them to form a Village or Plaza Circle, the precursor to forming a village.

    What appeals about Jim’s review in this process is that it comes from a different part of the political spectrum than the earlier reviews. We have not had the official book launch yet (we are still organizing the business structures and web site). Yet already the book seems to be taking off and travelling into interesting circles. While those with green affiliations have given some rave reviews, the fact is that medium-scale real estate development such as a 4,000 unit development tends to be a conservative activity, thus assessment and feedback from such a constituency is of value.

    However, before we identify a nation (or state) to see who puts their hand up, we need to determine what obstacles may stand in the way. If vested interests or tortuous regulation means we will spend years of chasing people and paper, we drop that territory and move on. Thus, we need to assess how the territory looks before we begin connection marketing there.

    The idea of an American roundtable on parallel villages is to select thoughtful, informed, key influencers and open a dialogue that brings national/local knowledge to the table. I can probably recommend fairly high level, open-minded participants; however, in the interest of maintaining checks and balances, it has more standing if someone else chairs it. We had a buyer visiting my wife’s art studio the other day, an American real estate developer, and yes he knew of Jim Bacon and his op-ed page. Hence the thought.

    Let’s see if it unfolds.

    * “Lovemarks are brands that inspire loyalty beyond reason. People love them because of what they are, not because of what they do. Their appeal is emotional. Companies may own brands. But Lovemarks are owned by the people who love them.” Example of lovemarks: Apple PC’s and Ipod, Guinness, VW Bug (quoted from

  47. Accurate Avatar

    Hello again Claude –

    The material you propose using would have to be tested and retested probably by both someone like Underwriters Lab and by International Code Council. I won’t go through the history of how the ICC came to be, and I’m not sure exactly how ‘International’ it is but it IS what various jurisdictions in the USA use.

    We do have (have had for quite some time) a product that we refer to as ‘light weight concrete’ essentially it has more air entrained in it. I’m not sure how your material would stand up to compression, torque and other structural questions and issues. Lots of questions regarding how does/would it hold up in an earthquake zone (the entire US is basically zoned for earthquake, just some are a much higher rating than others – obviously); how would it hold up to high winds, etc.

    Typically each state adopts the ICC standards (we are on the 2006 edition) – they are free to adopt whatever code they wish (the Fire Code was a contender for a while) or even write their own code, but that is a huge undertaking so most just adopt the ICC and add their own state and local amendments to the national (international) code. The reason for the national code was an effort to unify the regional codes so that a contractor could go from New York to California and not have a complete new set of rules (code) to have to follow.

    So the simple answer to your question of who has the decision making power in Virginia – each state is it’s own … kingdom.

    As for the question as to who would you be fighting as far as special interest groups against your building material. Lumber, insulation, possibly some steel and to a lessor extent some concrete folks – those come immediately to mind.

    If I can get a private email address for Jim Bacon, I will send him my private email and maybe I can help you with this off line of this blog.

    Good Health

  48. E M Risse Avatar
    E M Risse

    Dear Claude:

    The ball is in Jim Bacon’s court re further discussion / fora, etc.

    We wish you well. We will try to cover some new ground in our review when we publish it.

    I mentioned your book at a talk I gave last week. A municipal official asked for the reference. He wanted ideas as to what to do in a “service district” and thought his only options were more cookie cutter “projects.”

    On the topic of farm subsides:

    In the US of A there are two very different worlds of farm subsidy.

    The one most discussed and decried but still going strong is Type 1.

    (See THE ESTATES MATRIX re attempts by MainStream Media to derail Type 1 subsidies.)

    Type 1 subsidies are gross subsidies to corporate “farm” Enterprises owned by “families” and / or by investors.

    They produce cotton, sugar, milk, vegetables, fruit, wheat, corn, meat, and almost everything else.

    These Enterprises are driven by the realities protrayed in Reich’s book “Supercapitalism.”

    They are benefited by programs impacting transport (water, rail, air and roads) water, price supports, loans etc.

    The Type 2 subsidies are much different and have much greater impact on the issues about which you and I are concerned.

    They arise because:

    There is no Clear Edge between the Urbanside and the Countryside.

    See A. Lorenzetti’s Allegory of Good and Band Goverment in the Siena City Hall.

    There is a mythic aura about “the family farm” in the US of A.

    The subsidies for the “family farm” impact energy, communications and all urban services.

    The Type 1 farms benefit from these subsidies as well.

    Magazines like “Progressive Farmer” cater to the myths and the Geographic Illiteracy that underly the supply and demand myth proping up land values for urban land uses.

    (My uncle swore by PF when he was trying to raise beef cattle for a living in the Bitteroot Valley of Montana. Then he realized that what they were selling was a sham and sold out to a hobby farmer.)

    The appologists for the family farm myths clammer about “fair” but have no idea what is or is not “fair.”

    Why are there stark differences between US of A and Eurpoa?

    Nonurban land has been controled by the well-to-do since 1300 in Europa.

    When urban populations gained political swat, a more evenhanded Urbanside / Countryside policy emerged.

    That has been prevented by the “family farm” mystique in the US of A.

    The irony is that there are now a lot more family farms very near the Urbanside in Europe than in the US of A. They have been supplying “farmers markets” for centuries and so urban citizens better understand the realities of nonurban living. They have not bought into the subsicized “American Dream” to nearly the extent that exists here.

    In the US of A the nearby “real farms” were driven out of business by amature and professional speculators.

    What supports the speculators? The fact there is no Clear Edge and the wild misunderstanding of the amount of land needed for functional and sustainable urban land uses.

    More in a future column.

    In the meantime,

    Good luck.


    There nmuch more

  49. Jim Bacon Avatar
    Jim Bacon

    Accurate, you can contact me at I will forward your confidential email address to Claude. Jim

  50. Anonymous Avatar


    I will read your on-line when I get a chance. Spring is busy for me.

    Good points on all the farm issues.
    It is my understanding that in New Zealand farmers get payments for “environmental services”. Isn’t that a kind of subsidy? I think it is a good idea: at least it is better than what we do here where you provide the services others demand, for free, or else.

    I believe the amount of land needed for sustainable urban uses includes a substantila amount linked open space, parks, and farms. Without including these in the costs your compact urban developments are neither sustainable nor economically independent. I believe we are grossly overestimating the efficiencies associated with urban living and grossly underestimating the true size of the urban footprint.

    At present, there is no economic model (or very little) for urban farms that provide an urban income and standard of living. In order to reduce transport costs, we will have to come up with one.

    Farm lending is a specialty business. The nice thing about yur community lending idea is that the community would have to face how big the risk is and how small the returns are. If you want to have the farms and open space, increase the returns or decrease the risk.

    EMR thinks farms have been driven out of business by amatuer and professional speculators. Yet, here in Fauquier county, in order to have a “Farmers Market” You must have over one hundred acres, live on the property, be located on a major thoughoughfare, and you must provide county approved restrooms. (Which means running water and septic fields, which they probably won’t grant.) And, your neighbors had better not complain or else your conditional use permit will vanish along with your investment.

    At present there is one farmers market in the county, and I understand it is owned by descendents of the Currier and Ives fortune. There are two other markets, but they operate in the towns, exempt from county regs. The reason Europe has better farmers markets is that they are better supported by the government. Maryland has better farmers markets than Virginia because you can get free startup money from Maryland.

    What EMR doesn’t say is that every farmer (that owns his land) is a speculator. The option of high profits at the end is one thing that makes the long years of hanging on by your teeth worthwhile. We might not like it, but that is the truth. If we take that incentive out of the picture, who in theri right mind would make the kind of investment in property machinery and labor that it takes to then earn less than 1% ROI?

    Like most farmers, the most profitable land I work is land I don’t have to own. It is owned by speculators. Let’s face facts here. Anyone who owns land or property is a speculator. Get over it. Accept it.

    And make it part of your economic argument.

    EMR doen’t say what it would take to create a “clear edge”, but I assume it isn’t going to happen naturally, since it hasn’t. That means some kind of government intervention, which will amount to an enormous subsidy for urban speculators: they won’t have any competition.

    Frankly, I think the “clear edge” is a terrible concept. I think a continuously interlocking series of developmed and open spaces is a far better, and more valuable, idea.

    EMR thinks the subsidies for the “family farm” impact energy, communications and all urban services, and yet my own elected officials, and many conservation agencies consistenently say that farms pay $2 in taxes for each $1 in services they get. Faced with the problems and the bills I have aevery month, I’d just suggest that if you want to keep the farms around, stop taxing them at twice what they cost, and quit bitching about the small change like power delivery.

    The problems area lot bigger than that.

    The vast majority of farm corporations are in fact, family corporations. As I said, 3400 farms produce 25% of all the farm product in the U.S. So, yes, we do need open space, and some one has to take care of it, but that does not mean that we need to keep all the family farms. It would be nice to grow more of our food closer, but we don;t all have the climate that California, Oregon, and Chile have. So, it is an open question of whether it is really more efficient to grow food closer to the disparate markets, or whether it is in fact more efficient to let 3400 farms do what they do best.

    As for farm viability, we need to redefine it. It is worth a certain amount of money for me to have the life style I have. I don’t count that expense against the farm. But, farms get a lower portion of the total food budget because there is so much post-processing. Whether Libby cooks the peas and adds butter sauce or whether the house wife does, it doesn’t change what the farmer gets for peas and butter.

    I can sell you a chicken, hog, lamb, or cow. Then I can butcher it for you. But I can’t butcher a cow and sell you the meat. We need food saftey regulations that work for the farmer as much as they do for Smithfield.

    If EMR does not like Progressive Farmer magazine he would really hate Country Living, Grit, Hobby Farmer, Nursery Cultivator, and dozens of other magazines that promote views other than his own.

    “If half this land was green and blue (open space and open land / water) and the remainder were developed at the minimum sustainable density….” blah bal blah.

    EMR forgets to point out that someone owns all that open space.

    “In other words half the population of the US of A could live in this area.”

    Yes, they could.

    So what? The fact is that they don’t and there are truly astounding opportunity and transaction costs associiated with making anything like the changes that are required. When EMR promotes his views he ignores these little “externalities”.

    As far as I’m concerned, find some investors and go build what you want. If you get one percent of the market, that’s a home run.


    “To first sell your ideas, first win over the flamers”

    Yes, absolutely. You MUST be able to sell to your enemies. Other wise you are no friend of a free market, whatever else you claim. The essence of a deal is that both parties see the advantage of it.

    Not so subtle phrases referring to those who “think they have a vested interest” is nothing less than an admission that you are willing to deny or otherwise steal them. We will simply legislate open space, and ignore the costs. And, in doing so, we eliminate competition for OUR dog in the fight – high density urban development.

    Free market my Axe.

    Actually, I don’t have any problem with some of EMR’s ideas. He might be right that by costing me and a hundred others $100,000 a piece in lost vested interests some urban developer might be able to create a property worth $200 million.

    In that case, the community would be wealthier and better off (If you only count dollars). But, if that’s the case then the community ought to be able to pay me and the other 99 for what they lost, and still come out ahead.

    But, by alienating me and others like me, he will never successfully sell his ideas. He apparently does not intend to, because he thinks he can achieve the result by fiat.

    Just this weekend I spoke to a new neighbor. He took over a farm where the family died out, and he has spent substantial sums and efforts to restore the antique buildings, repair the land, put it back in service, etc. I think he has done a beautiful job.

    But, he is thouroughly upset with local government, he thinks they are nitpicking him over details when he is working to fix major problems. Things like runoff conditions that were far worse in their “natural” state than now. As a result, environmental officials he previously supported, he now considers the enemy, or at least highly unreasonable.

    I guess, I’m supposed to be ashamed of being a 12 1/2 percenter (by definition of course). But since the definition is meaningless, so is the slur.

    So, ignore the flamers, and create some more through slurs, alienation, and all around bureaucratic stupidity. After all, it’s all about public participation and inclusivity.



  51. Claude L Avatar

    You wrote: It is my understanding that in New Zealand farmers get payments for “environmental services”.”


    Also see (2007) These are generally for demonstration projects, not as a component of market tweaking.

  52. Claude L Avatar

    You wrote:
    ““To first sell your ideas, first win over the flamers”
    Yes, absolutely. You MUST be able to sell to your enemies. Other wise you are no friend of a free market, whatever else you claim. The essence of a deal is that both parties see the advantage of it.”


    There is a difference between a critic and a flamer. A critic examines your proposal and points out flaws or at least areas where they don’t get it, meaning my language is not sufficiently precise. This is most valuable. Indeed it is why, as of late, I invest time in this forum.
    A flamer creates what is called a straw dog or straw man argument and then attacks it, which is a distraction at best, and is not worthy of answer.

    I don’t understand your thesis that one must be able to sell to enemies or one is not a friend of the free market. First, I don’t understand the concept of enemies in the context of what I am proposing. Second, I believe in the proposal homes are on the open market, meaning anyone who can afford to buy may do so, friend or “enemy”.

    In a free market, one creates a business plan. Who will buy our product? What will it cost to market to them? In our case we have a large constituency of people who write things like “For many years I’ve been praying for village life. ” Such people will buy into a parallel Village as soon as we get it underway. In contrast, critics like “Accurate” want to live on a 50 acre farm. It would be a poor use of our resources to market to such people. As for flamers, they rarely reveal enough about themselves for one to assess if they are likely candidates for Village life, but their acerbic language suggests they would make unhappy neighbours.


  53. Tuffy Horse Avatar
    Tuffy Horse

    I seen no reason why we can’t return to “car free” zones. There is also no reason why horses can’t be used for intermediate travel. Growing up in southern AZ we rode just about every where, and left less of a carbon footprint. It takes a bit longer to get there, but it was relaxing and healthy.
    Part of the obesity problem in America is the fact that people have quit walking or riding to get places.
    Now with gas and food going sky high there are going to have to be some cut backs.

    Tracy Meisenbach

  54. Anonymous Avatar

    Get out and live alittle… Colleges, ski resorts, and many european cities are pedestrian scale. Newer ski resort villages are a prime example of a well planned pedestrian community… look at Vail or any Intrawest Village and you will be amazed. Plus, the designers integrate parking in garages undergound, often connecting multiple buildings with small underground streets. This solution allows the developer to use less land for more people without creating a barrier between the visitor/resident and the surrounding environment.

    Copenhagen, Denmark and Amsterdam are two examples of walkable city cores with buildings generally 5 stories tall.

    Remember when you live close to people, you can’t pick your neighbors!

  55. john harvie - va beach Avatar
    john harvie – va beach

    Thanks for the memory … I hate to see you go and hope someone keeps it going.

  56. credit score estimator Avatar
    credit score estimator

    Jim said, "I still don't understand why you're so hostile to an idea that (a) would leave you alone to live any way you want, (b) relies entirely upon free-market mechanisms and consumer choice, and (c) offers the prospect of creating a higher quality of life for those who choose it."

  57. While the thread is quite old, you will likely be hearing more about this soon enough. As the discussion continues it is vitally important that participants realise that Claude does not and should not have all of the answers. As enough people become involved to build critical mass, they will help solve the problems. This population will include experts in all fields and development capitol will be used to hire additional experts. There will be physicists, engineers, architects, statisticians, economists, lawyers, city planners, historians, etc. as well as farmers, business owners, parents, teachers, artists… and, as has been stated, only the people who are satisfied with the plan will be part of it. Someone is going to build another suburb, just once (to begin with) we will do this instead, for the people who want it.

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