The Cardboard Cutout Council
They have erected the most expensive movie set in history, you know where you can walk down a street & everything look good from the front, but peek through a window or open a door & you see its all being held up by sticks & tricks plus bits of sticky tape to cover the cracks.
All the projects & numbers being used by this council are mere window dressing provided by $100s of millions of ratepayers cash
None have any likelihood of ever realising 1 cent of return to the community let alone the $100s of millions that have been emptied into them
The talk coming out of council is the flim flam of salesman, not the real talk of good managers creating a future for the Coast
From the very start the council projects were badly concieved, badly executed & badly analysed
The Solar Farm, which was scandalously built on land that inflated from the $750,000 paid to the original owner to $4.2 million paid by to the promoter of the “plan”
From that point it was all downhill, so it now costs the ratepayer over $2 million to subsidise its strange deal of selling all its electricity to a third party & buying it all back
Then there is the airport which is supposely “international” with not one overseas airline indicating any interest in flying anywhere other than NZ
And it takes years for these businesses to make decisions, so don’t count on any international flights to anywhere
Plus the airport has absolutely none of the infrastructure necessary to deal with international traveller
How would passengers get from the unloading ladder, they stick onto planes now, to the terminal. Who will pay for all the $10s of millions of scanning equipment needed for virus detection & baggage processing
It won’t be viable for the ratepayers to pay to re-equip an airport it may only get $1 per year in lease. It is doubtful the new lessee will pay, because they seem to believe their main market will be local only.
Michael Burgess’ Candidate for Mayor draft statement of the State of the Region & what we need to do
The State of the Local Economy will be the factor most important to recover from this disastrous period of government
We must have a strategy to deal with the mountain of debt this council will leave behind as well as preserve both the local lifestyle & the environment without which it can not exist
Why this long post is important is everything the current local government is doing & has done has worsening our long term economic situation
Some say there is no local economy that it is part of the larger QLD or Australian economy & what we do here has little impact our circumstances
This is unfortunately not so, there is no “big brother” prepared to subsides out lifestyle, so unless we can achieve considerable resilience by having a local economy with strong exports we won’t be able to save what we need to in order for this to be the place we want it to be
Is there such a thing as a regional deficit?
Yes there is & the worse it is the less money circulates for lesser times within
Lets consider a very simple scenario if we all ate locally produced food, that would mean jobs are supported for the store owner who sells it to us, the farmer & his workers who grew it, the people made the locally sourced organic fertilizer.
But if we buy it from a supermarket we support only the jobs in that store. All the goods are produced elsewhere & the money is out of the region before you get your recyclable bags to the car
This shows the longer money stays in a region the more jobs are created
Can we buy everything local?
No we can’t simply because we don’t produce a lot of what we use or need. Petrol, cars, building materials to just name a few of the imports we use every day & will never produce here
Consider these two factors, we need to keep money circulating in the region to create jobs, but we also need to import quiet massive amounts of stuff to make modern life possible
“Buy Local” programs have little impact because it is difficult to get a large number of the population to do it & more importantly the amount of local production useful to local people is small in comparison to their needs for imports
At a Regional Level we need to Export or die
It is automatically true that we wake up every morning & we start importing, that is sending money out of the region
By doing that we reduce jobs because that money isn’t circulating its left not just the building but the whole region, We can not stop importing, we do it when we fill up the car & we do it when we go to McDonalds
To have a vibrant economy to be able to have a sustainable economy we must replace the money draining out, because it doesn’t matter whats happening 80 kms down the road in Brisbane if we don’t have the cash circulating here we don’t have the jobs here
Can we just export labour like North Korea
Some places attempt to become reservoirs of labour for more vibrant economies, like North Korean does for China or the Central Coast does for Sydney
This works to some extent but it does create a fairly low level of economic activity, but worse it has great social costs in workers being away from home longer getting to & from work
And it has a financial cost in travel expense & sometimes workers from these type of labour “reservoir” are the first shed when times get tough
Can Tourism balance the Books?
There are two main factors in tourism that have to be balanced
The number has a limit beyond which their impact on local lifestyle becomes too greater price to pay
Because this is fundamental to all economics, there no use having good money creation if you destroy the environment & the peoples lifestyle to do it
The second factor is how much they spent, this is where skill & planning must be brought to bear. Because only by keeping numbers within limits & increasing the spending of each can we create an industry that make a significant & increasing contribution to fixing the trade deficit
How do we do that, we must first decide which tourists we want, then encourage our local industry to move in the direction of offering that group what they want
Which travelers do we want
It is pretty well established that a considerable number, if not the majority, of modern travelers are seeking experiencial interactions with the places & people they go to
They don’t want a antiseptic 5 Star hotel with little genuine local flavour & lots of well practiced “Have a good day”s
Combines with the fact that the majority also say that ‘eating” is the highest on their list of things to do
So the script our tourist industry should be following almost writes itself
What is the Tourist industry that will benefit us most
It needs to be oriented to smaller scale accommodation, like very “boutique” hotel run by people who will interaction as real people with their guest. This would also included eco-resorts, deluxe farm stays, surfing lodges & other “activity” oriented places to stay
The food offered them must be as a unique a regional cuisine as we can devise, it must be hyper fresh & it must be as locally produced as possible
By feeding them locally produced we keep more money circulating in the region & provide for the increasing consciousness among travelers of healthy eating as well as ethical production
OK we control numbers of tourists, we maximise their spend, what next?
Michael Burgess Candidate for Mayor – Draft Parking Infrastructure Policy
Put here is this rough form in the hope others will contribute to it
Because Transparency & Consultativeness cannot just start after the election
The Parking Problem – Its Issues & a Solution
There is no ideal solution to the issue of parking inadequacy in many suburbs
The factors considered in deriving the solution were
A Solution is Needed
Parking must be offered as close to home as possible
It must be secure
The long term consequences of there being totally inadequate parking in many New Suburbs &, in fact, in many old ones as well, is unacceptable and a solution must be found
Although some will think this a relatively minor inconvenience, but for those that actually live in it they see it manifest itself as increased stress for individuals, pressure on relationships between individuals, neighbours & in neigbourhoods. Secondary effects may be mental issues, financial pressures, vandalism, crime & probably a myriad of others we have missed
And, of course, there is the possibility of regular fines from council for verge parking or doing it wrong I other ways
Bear in mind we haven’t seen the full extent of this issue yet. Until one of these “New Suburbs” fills up there is still lots of vacant lots to park in front of, once their all gone then the real squeeze will begin
But even then we won’t see the full catastrophe, that won’t happen till all those 10 year-olds become car owners
That is, when a 2 vehicle home becomes a 5 parking space needing one
A solution will be less than people wants, which is lots of parking outside their door
But this simply cannot be created once a suburb has been designed & built. So, our proposal is working within the existing parameters
Our Proposal is to create secure Parking Parks (PP)
Within or adjacent to most of the new suburbs there are open spaces some of which could be converted to “Parking Parks”
These would be secure areas in which people could leave their vehicle as close as possibly to their home. Co-ordination within families or households would work out which vehicles gets the limited parking at home & which ones go to the PP
App to Ride-Share from Parking Parks to home
There are many skilled local app builders, who could design one so that people approaching a “Parking Park” to leave their vehicle, can arrange a ride with someone going to somewhere near their home.
Although the plan is for PP to be reasonable close to homes, but if the weather is nasty maybe there will be a need for this amenity
Bicycles & scooter hire from PP to home
There can also be these types of vehicles available to get from “Parking Park” to home
Not the best solution if its raining or 40 degrees, but better maybe than perpetual parking rage confrontations & council fines
Combining “Parking Parks” with Community Farms
The benefits & advantages of Community or Urban Farming are vast, this is not the place to go into them here. But they will be the subject of another post
But their integration with Parking Parks is useful in a number of ways. Firstly, since some green space to eliminated when it is re-purposed as parking, allocation some of this space to intensive cultivation of “green” can in part way compensate for this
Secondly, both parking & Community Farms need security, anything that increase activity an area increases security & what installations are made to enhance security can just as well protect 2 facilities as they can one
Also, a Urban Farm may be able to harvest some of the rain from the Parking Parks, providing there is the technology available to purify it or that it be used perhaps only for flowers
Combining Homeless solution with Parking Parks & Urban Farm
There could be depending of the community view of it, be a small number of tiny houses in each PP.
There is probably some disguised homeless in every suburb, to deal with it in a humane manner is probably better than ignoring it, both for the individual & for the community
Once again it adds another dimension to over-all security
This may seem a very idealistic view of things, but it can be done & it does solve maybe as best we can a multitude of issues
Parking Lots & Community farms as vast Harvesters of recycled waste & solar power
Best idea yet cover parking lots with solar panels
Solar Panel Parking Lots
Harvesting Rain Water from Parking Lots
Community Farms as Recycle Hubs
Retro-fitting Green Roofs to reduce energy Use
Green roofs are an accepted part of modern building in Europe where some city and national governments have mandated their use.
The Austrian city of Linz, for example, requires green roofs on all new residential and commercial buildings with rooftops larger than 100m2, and German green roof building has been encouraged by the Federal Nature Protection Act, the Building Code and state-level nature protection statutes.
Australian examples are less common but in 2007 a national organisation was formed to promote green roofs, and Brisbane City Council included green roofs in its proposed action plan for dealing with climate change.
“Invite to Join”
Sunshine Coast – Local Government Oversight Committee
“Invite to Like”
Michael Burgess for Mayor of Sunshine-Coast
A list of Great Sunshine Coast pages & groups, scroll & pick
Sunshine Coast – Local Government Oversight Committee
Sunshine Coast News, Opinions & Views
Sunshine Coast Politicians & Government
Sunshine Coast Community Farms
Michael Burgess Candidate for Mayor Draft Sports Infrastructure Policy
Put here is this rough form in the hope others will contribute to it
Because Transparency & Consultativeness cannot just start after the election
Much of this is based on the ideas of a well know local sports administrator, his name has been left off to protect the innocent, but has been submitted for his criticism
Why the Coast shouldn’t build a Stadium
It’s simple because Stadium lose money, they are said to be about the worse investment a community can make
Almost all sports experts agree this is so, it would seem that the principal reason stadiums get built is that a few very elite teams get to use them to make money from tickets sale, but mainly from TV which likes a vast arena full of people as a backdrop to its broadcasts
That other reason is pollies cashing in on the popularity of sport by doing something very visible & permanent for it, rather than support the less visible grass roots local & in our view more important sports
Many, many local sports-involved people feel the diversion of money from what sport is suppose to do into building massive monuments to political egos destructive of the local fabric of club sports There is a belief at the grass roots that the principal community benefits of sports is to encourage fitness, to be played & encourage social interaction,
Sports by elite teams in expensive arena is entertainment & today used to sell us lots of products we maybe don’t need
But bottom line stadiums are bad, bad investments for communities & especially regional ones, where they are likely to be used less & not be attractive to TV rights money
It would have to be said economically they would the worse “investment” this council could make & that’s saying a lot because they have some stiff competition from other big loss making projects our Local Government Guys have embarked upon
Is it True, are Stadiums bottomless money pits?
The best evidence of this is that the private companies & sports teams who use them don’t build Stadiums & even in the exceptional case where they do, its with huge subsides from the ratepayers
They use political & media pressure to push polies into splashing vast amounts on them & getting the ratepayers to then subsidized them for the next 20 or 30 years until they have to be re-built at ratepayers expense to begin the whole thing all over again
Really, all that’s happening is the taxpayer/ratepayers is adding their money to the club or teams bottom line profits
And, of course, they often lead to the creation of expensive sports teams so the Local Gov Guys get to pose with someone for media photo ops or their wives get to toss the coins before the game
What’s a better idea to do Instead?
But let’s be smart, let’s get some cake & eat a lot as well
Let’s just not take this well trodden path to an expensive dead-end
What we should investigate as a community is a State-of-the-Art elite sports training facility
Some might say there already exists such facilities, most are too small, single sports focused, badly located, insufficiently integrated, badly designed, not upward scalable or without the correct underlying philosophy
Whats different about this approach is it combines our natural assets with existing demand
And this is the idea that underpins all the policies we believe should be instituted by the New Council
The Coast has great natural advantages for which there is assessible demand. By understanding both we can combine them & create a unique Coastal offerings
And that’s what the world wants, uniqueness. The idea of another stadium in another suburb has no appeal to anyone, its just same sameness
We have rivers & lakes for all sorts of water sports training, mountains for bike endurance training & we can build the best State-of-the-Art indoor facilities.
There are I am sure a vast number of other natural local amenities useful to elite sportspeople
And this is combined with a lifestyle and environment conducive to teams & individuals being able to have a relaxed, undisturbed focus on their training
Team sized Accommodation Campuses could be located near the Centre
Allowing teams to get quickly from training to relaxing in privacy, security & in open, healthy spaces
This would allow the team to be isolated to the extent that they & their management wish them to be. It would also allow management to create an environment absolutely designed specifically for their athletes wellbeing & happiness
It would also allows unrestricted assess by sports psychologist & other specialists to the players at times & in ways that could not be done in normal accommodation
It also allow the accommodation complex to be designed for a particular clientele with all the special types of rooms, facilities & equipment they need
Integrating technology in to whole Campus Complex
For example, there is a great deal of video recording & studying used in elite sports today, to do that in a comfortable mini-theatre after & even before training would be a huge advantage
To have a direct feed from training ground to accommodation would also be invaluable for instant assessments of the needs to vary training regimes or identifying individual needs of particular players
Such campuses would allow players to move around freely without dumping into too-hero-worshipping fans
Inspiration on hand every day
Why an expensive stadium when we can have the inspiring presence of top-level sports people with the multi-million dollar price tag
Plonking a stadium in the middle of our community isn’t creating something unique it’s just another expensive bit of bling in another suburb that will be irregularly used & will cost the community $100s of million to build & $10s of millions more to maintain
But a real well-designed top notch multi sports training facilities would cost perhaps ¼ of the price, could be scaled up as demand materializes over time & it would be like having the Olympics here every day for the next 13 years + forever, not just a couple of events for 13 day in 13 years
Imagine a whole school of kids watching an elite team going through its paces, getting to interact a little with them.
And our local talent being about to join the elite teams’ programs to experience for a few a professional training regime & life as professional athletes
Trainer the Trainers
One of the offshoots in the massive growth of sports is a similar massive increase in the need for trainers, managers, fitness coaches & lots of other ancillary sports personnel
The presence of teams, trainers, training & facilities would make a facility located here an ideal place for “Training the Trainer”
This becomes a self-perpetuating system, where by training trainers you have ambassadors located in multiple clubs in multiple locations around the world
They will remember forever their experiences here & return with their teams for as long as they are still in the “business”
Where’s the Market & how good is it?
Well its bigger and growing bigger a facility such as we are talking about is a virtual home away from home that would replicate what they have at their own grounds for elite individuals & teams
There are a great many of these in Australian, but even more all around the world
There would be teams/individual escaping the Northern Winter, from the too high temperature & humidity in their home countries, teams just seeking an environment with greater depth & knowledge of training & just an endless series potential clients
The ecomonic take off of Africa with its billion young adults will be accompanied by an explosion in funding for sports on that continent
And this is just what we can see today, once began it is likely to snow ball
Many will say it can’t be done, but think about how good it will be if it is done, because we are a Natural to be the ideal location
So what exactly makes a facility ‘elite’?
Article by Populous Sports
Such a complex incorporates & combines the latest in medical and nutrition resources, recovery and rehabilitation rooms and equipment, high-tech performance-analysis capabilities, dedicated education and commercial spaces… they’re all facets of a high-performance centre.
But what truly makes a facility elite is the seamless integration of these features.
Today’s deep understanding of how teams & players operate, allows the design of facilities that provide this integration between all these multiple elements.
Access from the medical room directly into hydrotherapy or physiotherapy, or meeting rooms with separate areas designed for smaller groups, are simple examples.
However, it’s the design of spaces that allows the organisation to come together, when appropriate, that can really make a huge difference to a team’s culture.
Facilitating connections between the “Elite” teams and lower-grade or academy teams, provides inspiration for up-and-coming players and cements all-important elite pathways whilst also pushing those in the top team in the knowledge that there are hard-working ambitious younger players biting at their heels.
Good design and integration is also key in preventing an ‘us and them’ mentality between players and administration.
In the U.K., the Queens Park Rangers F.C. Training Centre sets a real benchmark in this regard.
The Centre features a common entry, common gym and shared social spaces where all staff and players can interact.
The Rangers’ Centre incorporates the requirements of all of its teams, from nine-year-olds up to “Firsts”, seamlessly.
It provides well-linked state-of-the-art indoor facilities, and some 20 pitches, all while architecturally responding to its location
In addition to providing first-rate facilities for their own players and staff, clubs, like the Rangers, are increasingly willing to share their newly created elite resources with community teams and the public.
The Australian Rugby Development Centre in Sydney is a case in point.
Completed in 2017, the high-performance facility is of a standard that can cater to national teams, including the Wallabies and Wallaroos, and the men’s and women’s sevens teams headed for the Olympics.
Right from concept stage, there was focus on how best to make the Centre accessible to local clubs, schools and indigenous organisations.
Similarly in AFL, the Geelong Cats and Greater Western Sydney Giants are among clubs that placed a firm focus on community, multicultural and educational resources when planning their training centres.
Environmental sustainability is also increasingly a consideration in elite training projects.
The University of Connecticut’s football complex was the first college or university athletic project in the U.S. to gain LEED Silver (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification.
French football club Olympique Lyonnais’ €13 million state-of-the-art facility has all the design features you’d expect from a world-class training centre, including aqua rehabilitation, running hill, tracks and a covered pitch.
It also, however, has been designed to be highly environmentally sustainable being low-energy and carbon-neutral with natural ventilation, along with the possibility of installing thermal photovoltaics to heat water, and rain recycling technology to water the pitch.
Of course all advancements in elite training spaces, whether they relate to environmental, technological or other resources, come at a cost.
In Australia, partnering with local government in order to fund a facility is becoming more common.
It is ideal to Develop high-performance capability off the back of existing government-owned grounds and spaces, under the proviso the community will have use of upgraded sports and recreation resources. The difficulty comes in how to incorporate both these elements so that they enhance the facility not detract from it – this was successfully achieved with the GWS Giants Learning Life Centre in Sydney
Will the investment pay?
There a companies that work with organisations to establish strategies for maximising returns from their future facilities.
The creation of multi-team precincts, strategic partnerships with medical and scientific companies, and maximising hospitality and sponsorship opportunities are some of the means by which this is done.
Partnering with educational organisations can provide funding and other benefits.
Technology & its Integration
There have, in fact, been some astounding developments in what is available to help top sportspeople reach their full potential, should budget allow.
Performance and physiological monitoring is now such that we can identify potential injuries before they develop.
The latest in technology is being employed to do everything from biomechanics to allowing players to create virtual images of themselves in new uniforms, as at Texas A&M’s college football training centre.
Do Sports people Need it & Want it?
Sports organisations worldwide, regardless of budget, are now looking at getting access to the best training facility investment in the same way –
Firstly as a way to optimise the long term success of the team on and off the field but also now as a way to benefit
communities socially, economically and environmentally.
All games, even teams within a code, are, of course, different, and approach training differently.
Some say it would be impossible, we say it very possible & will be reward in multiple more ways then a expensive & little useful stadium
Michael Burgess Candidate for Mayor – Draft Economic Development Policy Platforms
Put here is this rough form in the hope others will contribute to it
Because Transparency & Consultativeness cannot just start after the election
The Coast must adopt an export drive to balance our economy in order to foster an environment in which local business will thrive
Included in this must be new types of housing developments, eco-tourist resorts & deluxe farm stays
We can not let the developers exploit the 200 metre strip along the ocean for their personal profit, while the rest of the region & the community languishes in recess or worse
Agri-hoods what are they? Why they suit the Coast?
The first & most importance thing about Agri-Hoods are they need space
Obvious yes, but its apace in the right space. For example there could be space outside Sydney, but is this too far from many other services & city centres
Space outside many rural town maybe be available, but for many its too far from other things they want in their lives
But the Coast is ideal situated with a vast amount of space between the Coast & Hinterland, a big enough CBD to provide the services, retail & entertainment
We also have good medical facilities which is important when many agri-hoods will be populated with retired or semi-retired people
Agri-Hoods as harvester of vast recycled resources
Agri-Hoods a View from where its happening
Daron Joffe, a.k.a. “Farmer D,” is a busy guy these days. An expert on community farming, Joffe is in demand as a consultant for developers looking to add farming and agriculture to their projects.
“Momentum is picking up,” says Joffe, owner of Farmer D Consulting and the first farmer of Serenbe, a seminal agrihood outside Atlanta. “It seems like every day there is a new project.”
At this point, there are more than 90 agrihoods in the United States, according to ULI data. No longer the new amenity on the block, farms are now an accepted part of the master-planning mix as developers and communities look for new ways to attract buyers and develop healthy neighborhoods. In some cities, agrihoods are among the top-selling master-planned developments, attracting a mix of empty nesters, young families, and retirees focused on a healthy lifestyle. (See a map of agrihoods across the United States in addition to the publication, Agrihoods: Cultivating Best Practices, at uli.org/food)
But Joffe typically cautions developers who are considering an agrihood: “It sounds sexy,” he says. “But farming is hard. Sustainable agriculture is a real challenge.”
In communities around the United States, there have been growing pains as developers, communities, and residents wrestle with the best ways to make agriculture and fresh food an integral part of their neighborhoods. Hard lessons have been learned as communities work out the kinks.
Three years after launching the 3.5-acre (1.4 ha) Cannery Urban Farm, part of the Cannery, a 547-home development in Davis, California, the farm is facing a $100,000 yearly deficit, says Mary Kimball, executive director of the Center for Land-Based Learning, the nonprofit organization operating the farm. The farm has encountered myriad unexpected issues, from poor soil and staff shortages to homeowners indiscriminately picking crops.
Above and below: At Serenbe, outside Atlanta, edible landscaping and weekend markets are part of the agrarian lifestyle. (JAashleyphoto.com)
📷“When we started, we didn’t know a lot about agrihoods and how they operated and best practices,” Kimball says. The farm, which was developed in conjunction with the city of Davis, will need a financial restructuring if it is going to be sustainable and achieve its potential, she says. But Kimball remains convinced of the concept’s potential. “The opportunities are amazing,” she says. “It’s about figuring out how to make this work.”
Food-related amenities can support a developer’s bottom line, but the “developments require innovation, creativity, new business models, and inventive partnerships to be successful,” concluded a recent report on the subject from ULI’s Center for Sustainability, Cultivating Development: Trends and Opportunities at the Intersection of Food and Real Estate.
Agriculture projects are “management-intensive activities that often require risk and experimentation,” says ULI senior resident fellow Ed McMahon, who worked on the report. “Farming is not a panacea, in any sense of the word.”
For developers, the advantages of agrihoods have been well documented. They typically use less land and require less maintenance than golf courses and swimming pools, at a fraction of the initial cost. A farm is also a proven strategy to set a development apart from the competition. “Number one, we find that the farm is one of the greatest marketing pieces we have,” says Steve Nygren, founder of Serenbe. “Agriculture sells.”
For Serenbe, which broke ground in 2004, the farm has become engrained in the DNA of the development, Nygren says. Serenbe includes “edible landscaping” such as blueberry bushes and fruit trees at crosswalks and along streets. The community operates as an “agrarian economy,” with branded food, pickled vegetables, weekend markets that attract tourists from the city, and local restaurants featuring vegetables “that have never been on a motorized vehicle,” he says.
An agriculture-based lifestyle clearly has its appeal with homebuyers. Outside Dallas, the 3,200-home Harvest community, developed by Hillwood Communities, was the top-selling master-planned community in the Dallas/Fort Worth area in 2018, with 420 sales, up from 320 in 2017, according to John Burns Real Estate Consulting. Willowsford, the development built around a conservancy and farm outside Washington, D.C., was the number-one-selling project in Virginia in 2018, with 400 sales, according to data tracked by the consultancy.
Harvest, which comprises 3,200 homes, was the top-selling master-planned community in the Dallas/Fort Worth area in 2018. (Jeremy Enlow)
But determining the value of the farm in the buying decision can be difficult, says Devyn Bachman, research manager for John Burns Real Estate Consulting. While developers may see farms as a low-cost amenity when compared with golf courses and pools, “I don’t believe people move to a community just because of agriculture,” Bachman says. Price point and location are still priorities, she says. “It is an attraction and something they take into consideration, but I don’t think it’s a destination.”
For Harvest, the aforementioned community outside Dallas, the working farm and a focus on agriculture have been a big differentiator in the market, says Tom Woliver, director of planning and development for Hillwood Communities. “Residents love it,” he says. “Whether they farm or not, people wanted to be on the farm or near the farm.”
The 1,200-acre (486 ha) Harvest site, which Hillwood acquired in 2011, has attributes that made it a natural for an agrihood, Woliver says. The topography was flat, with no trees, and the only existing landmark was a dilapidated farmhouse. Working with a consultant, they found there was good soil and “real value” to the agricultural roots and developing a connection to the rural character in the community, he says.
The farm is now the “face of the community,” operating without a subsidy, and more than 100 residents have signed up for the Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA) program, Woliver says. But there have been bumps in the road. After an initial investment of about $250,000 to build a greenhouse and buy a tractor, they struck a deal with a grower with an existing greenhouse business to manage the property. But the split duties did not work and Hillwood had to find a full-time farmer who could also devote time to work with the community.
“It is a great amenity,” Woliver says. “However, if you don’t have patience and know there are going to be hiccups, then don’t do it.”
Keys to Success
To be successful, a farm requires land, capital, and water. Mixing those requirements with the goals of a residential community is one of the challenges that agrihoods face. “When people peel back layers, there are a lot of complexities that don’t get talked about enough,” Joffe says.
Aria Denver, a 17.5-acre (7 ha) residential project in northwest Denver, incorporates a 1.5-acre (0.6 ha) production garden. (Aria Denver)
It is important for developers to start the process early, even before the start of housing construction, Joffe says. It can take years to establish stability in a production farm, he notes, but too often developments view the farm as “an afterthought.”
When one is talking with experts about agrihoods, key elements are mentioned repeatedly:
• Location matters. It is often a mistake to put the farm on the edge of the community; it should be in the heart and center, experts say. Locating the farm on the perimeter “doesn’t connect the farm and the farmers to the residents,” Nygren says. “It’s that connection to the farmer and the farm that is a huge asset.”
Concerns about smells and traffic are offset by the importance of engaging the residents and making the farm an authentic part of the community, experts say. “Put it where it is the soul of the community,” Woliver advises.
• Do your homework. Any project should start with a detailed analysis of the soil, water, and climate conditions. Not every situation is ideal for farming or for certain crops. Tough decisions need to be made about crops, soil, water and pesticides that will affect the long-term sustainability of the project, Joffe says.
After working with consultants, Freehold Communities built the Miralon agrihood in Palm Springs, California, around olive trees, which fit the soil and the water constraints, says Suzanne Maddalon, vice president of marketing for Freehold Communities.
Water is a constant—and expensive—issue that any farm operation must address. Using public sources can be particularly expensive. For Aria Denver, a 17.5-acre (7 ha) residential project in northwest Denver, developer Urban Ventures went to the local water district to rework rates for the 1.5-acre (0.6 ha) production garden. “The cost of water is an ongoing issue for us,” says Susan Powers, president of Urban Ventures. She says their water costs from May through September—the growing season—run $1,750.
• Figure out the money. Agrihoods often cost more than expected, developers say. As mentioned previously, Hillwood spent an estimated $250,000 to launch the farm in Harvest, including buying a tractor, building a greenhouse, and preparing the land, Woliver says.
Many agrihoods tie the farm budget into the homeowner association fees, like any other community amenity. For the 2,000-home Arden master-planned development in Palm Beach County, Florida, that works out to about $20 a month per home, Maddalon says. Scale is important; it is hard to make the numbers work for a smaller project, she says.
Alternatives exist for financing a community farm. Hillwood operates the agriculture element in Harvest as a private farm, leased to a grower, who also runs the community programs. Aria Denver worked with Regis University on an almost $1 million grant from the Colorado Health Foundation to support fresh food and community programs. In Prairie Crossing, a conservation community of 400 homes in Grayslake, Illinois, the farm is protected by a conservation easement and run by a nonprofit entity, which is funded, in part, by transfer taxes from the sale of homes.
Despite palm trees in the foreground of the rendering, the Miralon agrihood in Palm Springs, California, has olive trees as its crop. (Freehold Communities)
• Find partners. Don’t go it alone, experts say. “A truly successful food-centric development relies on partnerships with established local institutions,” the recent ULI study concluded. “By working with existing neighborhood groups, nonprofit organizations, anchor businesses, and small food purveyors, developers have the opportunity to create authentic, culturally relevant projects that support local priorities.”
Aria Denver has a close working relationship with Regis University, which is adjacent to the site, as well as with local community groups and nonprofit organizations. Groundwork Denver, a local nonprofit entity, runs the 1,800-square-foot (176 sq m) greenhouse on the site, with local teens serving as the main employees. The produce was sold to local restaurants, but this year the model was changed to a CSA, Powers says.
Engaging stakeholders and partners is “about building relationships around the farm that will support it in the long run,” Joffe says.
• Engage residents through programming. It is not enough to develop a picturesque farm and host a farmers market. There needs to be an active and consistent campaign to engage residents and get them involved in the farm culture, Joffe says. That means a variety of programs targeting different demographics and different interests, Woliver says. For example, the Harvest farm hosts classes with names like “Good Bugs, Bad Bugs” and “Talking Dirt.”
Programming should be constantly changed to keep it fresh, Powers says. “The more programs you offer, it hits people more,” she says. “It’s not just a beautiful garden. There are things going on there all the time.” The most successful activities involve all members of the family, including planting new crops, Kimball says. “It’s the family-related events that make sense,” she says.
A portion of HOA fees supports agriculture at Arden Clubhouse, a 2,000-home community in Palm Beach County, Florida. (Chet Frohlich Photography Inc., Florida/Freehold Communities)
• Create boundaries. A working farm needs to be treated like a business; residents may own a share of the product, but they cannot work the farm themselves. They often do not understand the limits. One of biggest mistakes found in the recent ULI study was the assumption that working the farm “is something residents themselves will do,” McMahon says.
In Davis, California, Kimball lost a crop because residents thought it was okay to come out and pick the watermelons. “You must have an area specifically for the community, where it is clear, ‘This space is yours and the other part is farmed by the staff,’” says Kimball.
• Hire the right staff. Finding the perfect farm manager can be a challenge. Farming is “not a skill set we’re used to hiring,” Maddalon says. In addition to running the farm as a business, a farm director in an agrihood must be part community relations expert, part educator, and part entertainer. The social and education aspects “are as important as the technical knowledge,” Maddalon says. Many agrihood developers seriously underestimate the necessary staffing, Joffe says. “These types of farms are very labor intensive,” he notes, adding that it is a misperception that all one really needs is a farm manager.
Far too often, developers misunderstand the essence of agrihoods, Maddalon says. The community is not simply about agriculture; it’s about healthy living. The agriculture is simply part of a package of amenities, including trails, parks, and gardens, “that help with a healthy living lifestyle,” she says.
Agriculture must be supported in the context of the larger goals, like any other amenity, Kimball says. “This is the agrihood challenge,” she says. “If it is going to be seen as a vital amenity for the development, [developers and the community] need to invest in it.” But that calculation is more complicated with agrihoods. There is a connection with agrihoods that is very different than other communities. Agrihoods “give people searching for a place to live that is not just a home in the suburbs the opportunity to be part of something that is bigger than themselves,” Powers says.
Agrihoods may be more costly and labor intensive than a typical master-planned development, but Powers says that she would gladly do it again: “It’s one of the things that get in your blood.”
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