Sunday, August 1, 2010

Coming Up on the 2 Year Mark

This August will make two years since we moved into Belvedere. It is hard to believe. Two years ago, we were sitting in the lawyer's office with eyes as big as the proverbial deer-in-the-headlight with the lawyer telling us we had 19 liens on the property, the most ever he had every seen in Cville or Albemarle County. I remember feeling scared and staring at Jim Duncan, who tried his best to calm the nerves of this intense real estate deal. I remember when we first heard about Belvedere, the "green" community, with sidewalks and people and health at its root. That latter bit is what drew me. Health. Connection, especially the connection between nature and people and people and people. Then, the economy tanked and everything slowed down. Now, we have 47 homes inhabited, sold or underconstruction, and spec homes going up everywhere. There are 5 builders in Belvedere, and Bob Hauser's "street of dreams" for the parade of homes is going up quickly. Still, Belvedere feels a little amorphous. Several pioneers are moving on. Yes, we are still here!

Sometimes, I get nostalgic for that first year when it was just three inhabited homes, including us. It was quiet. I would often just sit in the center of the neighborhood and gaze at the mountains. It was fun being at the beginning of something and watching it grow. I focused on learning permaculture for my yard and building my business. Belvedere Integrated Healing Arts has been open a year and half now, and I am slowing building partnerships and seeking ways to connect with Charlottesville. Folks have a hard time finding me though. We still aren't on google maps.

And yes, I am still tracking and still having adventures out on the land. Why just the other day I snuck up on a groundhog thinking I would slap it on the butt (they just look so oblivious), but once I got right next to it, I was afraid it would bite me, so I just whispered to it! I still see magnificent wonderful things: fox dens, mating turtles, lunar moths, bald eagles, bobcat tracks. And Stonehaus cleaned up parts of the land! It has just been hard to get to the blog, running a business and supporting my family. Here is the 2nd year update from my perspective:

Homes: There is now an amazing array of homes here in Belvedere. I want to have one of each. We are all in love with the new red house next to the Village Green. In fact, we all want more colorful houses in general. Too many green houses in the green neighborhood! I have enjoyed watching every one of the homes go up. The builders are Gibson, Southern Development, Stonehaus, Piedmont and Eagle. The downside is that buyers now have so many choices, it gets confusing. I suggest buyers come around to some of our gatherings and ask questions. That might help you sort out what you want. I am getting ideas all the time for what might be the start of dream house design in my head. Gone are the days when we had to pick from a production development line. Hear ye! Hear ye! You can get anything you want here at Belvedere (so it seems). The ARB has gotten more relaxed than those strict early days. I can't wait to see the three story carriage house (and to have that family move in! Hurry Up!)

Parks and Design: I am all about the nature connection piece but this is part of the amorphous milieu I alluded to before. Progress was made on the Bowling Cemetery, but only because the County required it before construction around it could begin. The Village Green needs redesign, and we want to have an unusual and attractive playground. We have started with just a playset and play at your own risk, and residents want to work with the nature connection piece. It has been super to have a community supportive of children's play. We invited and supported landscape architect and educator Robin Moore and the Natural Learning Initiative who toured Belvedere, the trails, and the proposed greenway. His excitement about our design is reflected in his desire to offer to help with design pro bono. I contacted his recommendation Chris Counts, award winning landscape architect here in Cville for help, too. Belvedere's potential to support the nature connection piece is exciting, and how wonderful it would be to start a pattern of New Urban design with Nature Connection and Play with Mentoring for Nature Connection. My teacher, Jon Young, used to say his goal was a nature mentor in every neighborhood.

STILL, Stonehaus remains slippery regarding the redesign of the Village Green. Once upon a time, it was supposed to be done this past spring, now it is this fall. At first, Albemarle County needed the redesign done as soon as possible, now not so much. Again, that amorphous theme emerges: things change all time and this resident wonders, what is the truth? The bottom line is all about how much money the development company has. Still, the median was planted with trees and native grasses. My current understanding is that the initial landscaping for the Village Green redesign and the Town Center will take place this Fall, but of course, that might change. Sigh. This is not to mention the need for work on the Pocket Parks, the Storm Water Park, the Dog Park. I wish things were further along.

Living in a Construction Zone: Yes, we are living in a construction zone. Yes, it is fatiguing. Yes, it is also exciting. New things are happening all the time. There are corners of the neighborhood more affected by others, and it is troubling to hear how yards are churned up, sometimes damage is done. It is hard when the cement truck washes out its cement in plain view.

Fiber Optic: This is the biggest source of unseen contention ever. I don't have the latest on the matter since I don't watch television, but the neighbors seem better with the service offered by Connexion. Telephone goes up and down. Internet, too. I don't understand all the hardware involved. Maybe another resident can write up something here.

Amenities: The trail system still rocks, and while we don't have the Organic Farm (that is still slated only very expensive) or other programed pieces, we do have a ton of community spirit. We often have gatherings, happy hours, and alley parties. We are enjoying belonging to Fairview Swim Club. The Swim Team is the best in the area, and the tennis clinics are awesome and free with your membership. The other day, the club ran a race through the neighborhood and I loved watching the folks run around our houses and parks. It is a good healthy vibe. The Town Center is still slated to go in, only different now that Stonehaus wants businesses to buy the land and build. Since there is a lot of retail already in Cville, this is a hard selling point. I look forward to seeing how it unfolds.

That is my update for now. Belvedere is better than ever, just slower to develop than originally thought. So, stay tuned for more. I hope to get back to writing about my adventures in the forest, and to detail the beginning of Belvedere Nature Awareness program. I think about it all the time.