Sunday, October 19, 2008

Answers to Important Questions

With the foreclosures on Churchill properties in Belvedere, Bret and I have been fielding phone calls and emails about how this affects us. We have also been, as always, listening to criticism of the project. I have tried to come up with some explanations for those who want to know. Here goes:

About the Foreclosures:
What I understand is that Churchill foreclosed on properties to protect potential buyers because some liens were being put on the properties that had nothing to do with the houses (called "judgments"). These were judgments are connected to other Churchill issues, not in Belvedere. AND there are mechanics liens on the properties, too. There were 19 on ours. I have no idea what is on the other properties (and it is not my business, really). Churchill got into financial difficulty because of the times we are in, like many other home builders. Yes, Bret and I are affected by the foreclosures in several ways.
  • It is difficult to watch people we care about stress out. This includes Churchill owners AND the staff. We got attached to builders, as many of you who have built houses know, the carpenters and foreman become part of your family for a time. Josh Goldschmidt is amazing the way he stays balanced and upbeat despite many personal and professional difficulties. He and Jamie fought bankruptcy and saw foreclosing as a way to protect buyers instead of entangling the sales further.
  • My neighbors are suffering, too. When a house goes to foreclosure it can be bought from the bank but AS IS. Those who got started with Churchill expected a finished house with a warranty. Who wants to buy a house that doesn't have a warranty and a long punch list? Josh has extended himself to say he will help finish houses and provide technical support through whatever means he can, but promises at this time are a little hard to take to the bank, so to speak. We are just in difficult times. Sometimes I just want to go to the builders and say, hey, cut it out, just do your job and finish the houses! But my savvy neighbors have put money in escrow that won't be paid until the work is complete. We have yet to see how potential buyers will complete the purchases of the houses sold to the bank on Friday.
  • Is my house worth less than I paid for it in July? Probably. But, I am here for the long run folks. I am not turning my house around to make some money. I bought into Belvedere for the lifestyle, especially the connection to nature and health. This neighborhood is experimental, it is a model of living that brings many different kinds of people together. I am here for the health of it and I am watching to see how it shakes out. When people come at me with criticism of the project, how much the houses cost, etc., I say, it is a start in what I think is the right direction. People living close together sharing amenities and sometimes meals (definitely child friendly and pet friendly. It is nice to have someone watching over our house and cat when we go away.) Yes, I took risks when we became the pioneer and I am like that. This neighborhood design is sustainable and tries to include nature and health in the equation. It is my type of idea, and while the house is a lot fancier than anything I thought I would ever own, I decided that I was going to support this idea, better yet, I was going to live it. I decided. If you have criticisms then search yourself and wonder why.
The bottom line for me is that we are all concerned about whether or not Belvedere will be what it said it was going to be. As my neighbor has said, I didn't buy into Belvedere for the lot! We all signed up for whole package, the mix-use walkable neighborhood, and those of us who are pioneers have paid a hefty price tag. If the town center is not built, the organic farm not put in, the health programs not launched, then I will consider selling and moving on (Take Note Stonehaus.) Which leads me to another point:

"Expensive" and "Self-Segregating." Let's talk about this for a few minutes
We are living in times that might make a few of us pause and think maybe there are other ways to live. It is not comfortable to change. I recently went back up to Vermont where my friends said (and I have heard this here in Cville, too), isn't that going to be self-segregating community of people who can afford to live there? You know what, America, for all its rhetoric as a great melting pot, is self-segregating. I have never been in a more self-segragating arena than some of the communities I was in up in Vermont. In fact, they wanted to secede from the nation during the Bush presidency. It is not about money. I think people are just afraid of difference and want to take someone to task. Face it, we all want someone like us next to us, but if we are going to learn to live together then maybe a new model of living needs to be unrolled. Maybe now we are going to be forced to make a change.

My home and healing arts center in Vermont was bought by two families. The mothers were both healing arts practitioners, the fathers both very handy men. The men made a workshop out of the garage and the women work in the center. They are raising their children together. When people come at with me with this attitude that only rich people live in Belvedere then I say, well, there are town homes, there are duplexes, there will be apartments. But people don't want to give up their single family lifestyle or their land. Then, I say, accept the responsibility of that. The builders here are coming up with new designs, smaller homes. They are listening. Personally, I want one of those 800 sq. foot cottages. If you are truly interested in Belvedere, come on down and lets talk. If you have this argument that we are exclusive here, let's look at that. Yes, in some ways we won't have immigrant communities here or people who live below the poverty line, unless of course they decide that apartment living is okay with them, or even renting one of the carriage units. It is quite possible for two families to buy one of these big houses together and learn to live, love, and raise children together. How nice it would be to have another mother in my house. If I my life comes to that, I would definitely consider it.

A Model Of Health
We have a distinct approach in biodynamic craniosacral therapy that honors we call the health in system. As James Jealous, DO says, "The embryo does not make a mistake." As native peoples have said, we have Original Instructions, all of us human and more than human (nature). My first experiences with Belvedere were through Stonehaus and the philosophy behind the design that includes nature instead of looking to control or worse, just destroy it. While Stonehaus had to cut down the trees, they have planted many many more. This development company is trying very hard to do something different (and sell it, too, I might add, but what do you expect, they are businesspeople). I am a big picture person (and detail oriented, too). I saw Belvedere as a chance to consider a different way of living, one that is about WE, humans and nature. It is not perfect. I just hope that all the fear will not squelch it.

I miss my life in Vermont, the nature, the peace, the fire, the life close to the edge. And I am trying something different now.


What to do from here?
I am concerned about the current state of my neighborhood. Hauser has laid off people and work at the company's homes is at a crawl if at all. This has been a very difficult beginning to a new life. I have likened the building of this home to a difficult birth and my neighbors laugh and say, my home has a low Apgar score (the score given to babies at birth, the higher the score the better the condition of the baby.) That is how it is here. So, here are my questions for myself and anyone else, How do we make a repair with these pioneer families to keep them resourced and in good health? What do we do when a community starts out with such difficulty, under-resourced? How can I help increase the health in this system?

I have clearly planted my feet and, in a healing metaphor, am holding Belvedere and waiting for the health in the system to reset. Maybe we all doing that in these times for ourselves, our communities, our country. As a practitioner, I have learned to sit, hold and wait. It takes faith and belief in something larger than myself to continue. That's where I am at. Where are you?

5 comments:

Liz said...

My husband and I are/were considering moving to belvedere in the next year- we're aiming to buy one of the townhomes from Hauser. (or a small single family, if that was possible) We are first time homebuyers very interested in the earthcraft homes offered and the LEED neighborhood program. We're hoping that Hauser will continue with the neighborhood as designed- it really has the potential to be amazing if it's carried out. I'm disappointed to hear that the homes were "foreclosed" on. Hopefully that will not be a negative in a place with such potential.

KateRCST said...

Come on in Liz, we want neighbors! We heard last night that three of the four townhomes currently underway have been bought or are under contract. The price is amazing for those homes at just under 250,000. Belvedere got amazing traffic yesterday, with two families seriously considering buying or building in Belvedere. Things are still moving along. Thanks for reading the blog.

Sean Gallagher said...

Hi Kate,

I just ran across the Hook article and subsequently your blog. I'm so happy that I did. You're writing is filled with passion and has prompted me to come take a look at the neighborhood and the planned Town Center. My wife and I own Nature's Child and may be looking for a new building when our lease is up next year.

I don't know why we haven't come to take a look yet. I had been on the Belvedere website a couple of times just never popped in for a look.

Maybe it was the sense of self-segregation you mentioned or an aversion to yet another planned community and yet more development of dwindling forested land that kept me away. But, after reading your descriptions of the land, commitment to community and responses to criticism I am even more intrigued and plan to swing on by for a visit this weekend.

Keep writing as I'm sure I'm not the only one out there who's ears have perked up.

Regards,

Sean

KateRCST said...

Sean,

Come by and see me! I will give you a personal tour of my favorite places! Maybe you will open up next to me in the Town Center! I had thought about your store for Belvedere. I think I have met your wife, I taught a Toddler class in your store a few weeks ago!

Thank you for reading my blog and stay tuned! There is more to come.

Kate

Alex said...

Hi Kate,

I just stumbled upon your blog today, and have been reading each of your monthly entries. Is there any indication that the organic farm and town center may not be built? My office is being transferred to C-ville in 2010, and my girlfriend and I are VERY interested in this neighborhood. However, while we're not a pioneer like yourself, we are still concerned this development may not fully come to fruition. On paper, this community has everything that a couple and/or growing family would want. I just hope that this neighborhood continues to grow, and families continue to move-in and call this their home.