About This Newsletter What is an Ecovillage? Ecovillage Resources Diana Leafe Christian, Editor

Maitreya Ecovillage Keeps Its Domes

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Melanie Rios in front of of of Maitreya's completed domes.
In July of this year Maitreya Ecovillage, an ecovillage project in a small city in the western U.S. I’ll call Juniper Grove, won a small, unofficial victory for high-density/non-code buildings. (In order not to embarrass city officials, or trigger unwanted consequences for them or for Maitreya Ecovillage, I've changed the name of the town.)

Two friends of mine, Rob Bolman and Melanie Rios, and Rob’s mom, own five adjacent lots with small houses and a triplex on one end of a block near downtown. They took the fences down, and they and the 20 tenants — mostly environmental activists and bicyclists — enjoy weekly potlucks and shared community facilities: a strawbale community center, a community garden and chickens, a shared bike shed, and so on.

One way they help environmental activists and students in Juniper Grove is to offer extremely cheap living spaces, $200 a month, in seven different eight-foot-wide wooden domes. The domes are hand-made with about $50 of new but mostly recycled materials and donated labor. The domes have wooden floors and are insulated, and have no electricity or plumbing. Dome residents share the kitchen and bathroom facilities with residents of one of the apartments.

A neighbor, annoyed by Maitreya’s chickens making too much noise as they laid eggs, reported the community to Juniper Grove’s planning and building departments for violations of camping regulations (the domes) and zoning regulations (too many chickens on the property). The next day Melanie and Rob received a letter from planning department and building code officials saying they had one week to come into compliance or be fined $400 per day.

Maitreya ecovillagers help set up a new dome.
That day Melanie and Rob met with an official in the city planning office, listening respectfully as she told them the ways in which they had violated regulations. Rob agreed to address the chicken issue within 24 hours. Melanie explained that they appreciated the jobs the zoning and building code officials did to safeguard individual health, and that their domes were built according to ecovillage-generated safety specifications to reduce the likelihood of fire. “The next step,” Melanie said, “is to have the codes also support planetary health.”

In times of Climate Change and Peak Oil, she told them, urban dwellers and others must create small-scale, high-density living spaces with cooperating neighbors who share resources, reduce fossil fuel use, and grow and raise food onsite. “The folks living in the domes are putting out only ten percent of the carbon emissions of the average resident of our town, and they are pioneering how many of us may be living once drought and other climate change factors force people to migrate to communities like Maitreya Ecovillage.” Melanie let the enforcement official know that they would appeal a decision to disallow the domes, calling in the media and their thousand or so friends to a public hearing.

As it happens, Melanie does have a huge email mailing list of TV viewers across the US, as well as the many people she knows personally, because in April, 2007 she participated in an episode of the "Wife Swap" reality TV show. Melanie lived for a week with a family in Greensboro, North Carolina, while the mom of their family lived at Maitreya with the ecovillagers. (After convincing the dad of the family that global warming and Peak Oil issues were real, Melanie was unable to persuade him to give up one of the family's two SUVs. Meanwhile at Maitreya, the mom refused to eat "dirt food" vegetables grown in the community garden.)

Melanie and Rob thanked the Juniper Grove official for her time, and for the opportunity to bring awareness of these issues to others, and bicycled home.

The next day the city official's boss called with the message that Maitreya could keep the domes, but two of them would need to be moved ten feet back from the property line to comply with lot-line regulations, which Rob and Melanie agreed to do.

And now one more high-density urban ecovillage, with a community garden and community bike shed — and really low cost-dwellings with ultra cheap rent — exists in one small city in the US of A.

Not a bad idea at all.

Related articles:

How Yarrow Ecovillage Got “Ecovillage Zoning” – May 2008 issue
L.A. Eco-Village Stops Bulldozers! – May 2008 issue


Also in this issue — Oct. '08
Coming in Future Issues:
  • Anastasia Ecovillages in Russia (Andrew Jones)
  • Konohana Family Farm in Japan (Hildur Jackson)
  • First Philippines Ecovillage Design Education Course (Diana Leafe Christian)
  • Pintig Ecovillage Partners with a Local Green Business (Diana Leafe Christian)
  • Our Whirlwind Aussie Road Trip, Part II (Russell Austerberry)
  • Svanholm in Denmark Becomes Carbon Neutral (Christina Adler Jensen)
  • Ecovillage Conference Tokyo 2009 (Hildur Jackson)
  • ‘Glue’ or ‘Shrapnel’ in Your Ecovillage (Diana Leafe Christian)
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Newsletter Staff

Mission & Purpose

To encourage and inspire new and existing ecovillage projects with news about ecovillages and related projects worldwide.

Advisory Board

  • Lois Arkin,
    CRSP; ENA; Urban Ecovillage Network; Los Angeles Eco-Village, US
  • Peter Bane,
    Permaculture designer; publisher, Permaculture Activist, US
  • Albert Bates,
    Co-founder, GEN; Post-Petroleum Survival Guide; Director, Ecovillage Training Center at The Farm, US
  • Tree Bressen,
    Consensus & Facilitation Trainer; Cofounder, Walnut St. Co-op, US
  • Ernest Callenbach,
    Ecotopia, Ecotopia Emerging; US
  • Giovanni Ciarlo,
    GEN; ENA; Huehyecoyotl Ecovillage, Mexico
  • Raines Cohen,
    Cohousing Association of the US; Fellowship for Intentional Community (FIC); Berkeley Cohousing, US
  • Leila Dregger,
    Peace journalist & writer, Peace Research Center & Ecovillage, Tamera, Portugal
  • Chuck Durrett,
    Cohousing; Senior Cohousing; Architect, The Cohousing Company; Nevada City Cohousing, US
  • Jonathan Dawson,
    Ecovillages; Findhorn Foundation, Scotland
  • Robert Gilman,
    Co-founder, GEN; Ecovillages & Sustainable Communities; City Council Member, Langley, Washington, US
  • Michael Hale,
    Yarrow Ecovillage, Canada
  • Jeff Grossberg,
    Guidestone Consulting Group, US
  • Martha Harris,
    Earthaven Ecovillage, US
  • Scott Horton,
    Editor, Permaculture Activist, US
  • Hildur Jackson,
    Co-founder, Gaia Trust; cofounder, GEN; Ecovillage Living, Denmark
  • Kosha Joubert,
    Editor, Beyond You and Me, GEN's EDE Program; Ecovillage Sieben Linden, Germany
  • Elana Kann & Bill Flemming,
    Co-developers, Westwood Cohousing, US
  • Joseph F. Kennedy,
    Designer/educator; The Art of Natural Building, US
  • Fred & Nancy Lanphear,
    Northwest Intentional Communities Association (NICA); Songaia Cohousing, US
  • Mark Lakeman,
    Founder, Portland City Repair & Village Building Convergence, US
  • Max Lindegger,
    Cofounder, GEN; Director, GEN-Oceania/Asia; Crystal Waters Ecovillage, Australia
  • Chris Mare,
    GEN's EDE Program; Village Design Institute, US
  • Ronaye Matthew,
    Canadian Cohousing Network; Cranberry Commons Cohousing, Canada
  • Kathryn McCamant,
    Architect/Developer, Cohousing Partners, Inc.; Co-author, Cohousing; Nevada City Cohousing, US
  • Dr. Bill Metcalf,
    Findhorn Book of Community Living; Professor, Environmental Sociology, Griffith University, Australia
  • Ina Meyer-Stoll,
    Co-director, GEN-Europe; ZEGG, Germany
  • Tim Miller,
    The 60s Communes; Professor of Religion, University of Kansas, US
  • Hank Obermayer,
    Mariposa Grove Cohousing, US
  • Toshio Ogata,
    Professor of Economics, Chuo University; GEPA (Global Environment Project in Asia), Japan
  • Craig Ragland,
    Executive Director, Cohousing Association of the US; Songaia Cohousing; New Earth Song Cohousing, US
  • Penelope Reyes,
    President, GEN-Oceania/Asia; Tuwâ - The Laughing Fish, Cabiao, Philippines
  • Michael Rios,
    Network for a New Culture Summer Camp East; Chrysalis, Washington DC, US
  • Jim Shenck,
    Enright Ridge Ecovillage, US
  • Nicola Shirley,
    The Source Farm Ecovillage, Jamaica
  • Tony Sirna,
    Communities Directory; Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage, US
  • Jan Steinman,
    EcoReality Co-op, Canada
  • Liz Walker,
    GEN's EDE Program; Ecovillage at Ithaca; EcoVillage at Ithaca, US