Perspectus

 
  UNION ACRES: THE IDEAL BALANCE BETWEEN COMMUNITY AND PRIVATE PROPERTY
INTRODUCTION
The Earth, our home, is a living organism with an integrated inherent design. As we return to awareness of the way life works through that design, we have a responsibility to practice earth stewardship, wise use of resources, as well as respect for this beautiful planet and the interdependence of all living things. This respect must extend to all aspects of daily living, including our waste disposal, the design of our home, our friendships, and the way we earn our money. Intentional community can provide a model for practicing earth stewardship by thinking globally and acting locally. Sharing of talents and resources in cooperative community is a practical way to reduce the consumption of resources yet to still improve the quality of our lives.
Social and economic advantages are created when a group of people form community together. Americans are becoming increasingly alienated in modern society and the isolated nuclear family. In contrast, community brings a feeling of extended family, and has potential for creating greater trust, self-awareness, intimacy, and cooperation. It also provides security in times of trouble. Spending time with neighbors in work and play creates emotional bonds that are impossible to measure. Our children can enjoy the benefits  of new forms of interdependence and responsiveness. Common land and facilities become the focus for all types of recreational and educational activities. 
OUR COMMUNITY
Union Acres Community was founded in 1989 in the heart of the beautiful Smoky Mountains of Western North Carolina. It is based on principles of stewardship, equality, consensus, and wholesome living. We are a planned community for about twenty families seeking connectedness and alternative lifestyle. We are a spiritually eclectic, ecologically conscientious, diverse group of people, ranging in age, occupation, and interests. Many homes incorporate ecological alternative technologies, including: straw bale, passive and active solar applications, and earth-berm home designs. Shared values include a desire to become environmentally conscious. To live more wholesome and balanced lives and to become more connected and accepting of one another by learning to make decisions by consensus.
The Statement of Purpose for Union Acres is “To live together in peace, harmony and ecological balance; to respect one another and all forms of life; to attune to and act in harmony with the universal life force which is the essence of all existence.”
There are presently about twelve active member/households within Union Acres community, including about thirteen children ranging in age from one to seventeen years. We share seven acres of common land which include a meadow, creek, passive solar community center, swimming pool, picnic shelter, gardens, and nature trails. Two of these acres lie adjacent to the public road for possible commercial ventures. We seek people who are cooperative in nature, share similar interests, and willing and able to actively participate in community work and play.
We presently enjoy coming together for activities such as: monthly business meetings; monthly sharings; various committee meetings; pot lucks; celebrations (such as Solstice, May Day and Thanksgiving); rituals and spiritual support groups; womens gatherings; talent shows; musical festivities; work parties; volleyball, ping-pong, basket ball, wiffle ball and badminton; fun in the pool; food coop; game nights, drumming circles; campfire singalongs; community gardening; and home schooling projects. One of our neighbors enjoys sharing her horses by riding with neighbors. There are diverse opportunities for cultural activities nearby. 
FOOD CO-OP
Every month or so neighbors may place a group order of bulk grains and natural foods and health products with a natural food coop. This is a convenient and economical way to purchase healthy products.
COMMUNITY GARDENS
While some families have organic gardens on their own land, others may share use and enjoyment of the community garden located in one of our common meadows. Not only does gardening enable people to live comfortably on a lower budget, but it also provides the security of knowing that they are eating wholesome organically grown produce and acquiring the skills to be more self-sufficient. Gardening is a wholesome way for neighbors to enjoy working side by side and participants are rewarded by a share in the produce.
CHILDREN
We believe it is healthy to bring children into the lives of adults, and adults into the lives of children. As our children grow up they play secure from automobile traffic on our private road (10mph traffic) and enjoy the common facilities. Parents and teenagers can share in child supervision, instead of disinterested professionals. Sometimes groups of parents have worked cooperatively together to provide home schooling or enrichment activities. Union Acres is a natural paradise for young children. It invites a young mind to explore the surrounding beauty of Mother Nature and to experience work as play. Our spacious upper meadow is ideal for ball playing, swimming, running around, and or kid’s own version of extended family community. We have a sandbox, swings and playground for younger children. A creek runs adjacent to the meadow and there are trails for hiking. In contrast to most cities and developed areas, Union Acres affords children the freedom to grow in an environment that offers safety and an abundant variety of learning experiences along with the companionship of other children and adults.
LOCATION
Our scenic location borders the Cherokee Reservation near the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. The surrounding mountain scenery is spectacular at any time of year. Union Acres lies one hour west of Asheville, NC, and within commuting distance of the University of Western North Carolina in Cullowee (20 min.) The distance to Sylva is (15 min.); Waynesville (30 min.); Franklin (40 min.); Bryson City (10 min.); Cherokee (10 min.); Gatlinburg, TN (45 min.); and Nantahala Outdoor Center ( min.). We are approximately 160 miles form the major metropolitan area of Atlanta, GA. The crime rate in Jackson County, NC, is low, the climate is moderate, and opportunities for outdoor adventures are plentiful. The Great Smoky Mtn. Nat’l Park is the most visited in the US. The area is famous for its autumn colors, hiking trails, lakes, rivers, creeks, and waterfalls. The Smoky Mountains are among the most ancient in the world, and the biodiversity is considerable. Elevation ranges from 2000 (the altitude of Union Acres) to 6000 feet.   The climate is mild, and we have a long growing season. In summer, temperatures are warm in daytime, but nights are cool. Winter temperatures sometimes dip below freezing, but rarely for more than a few days at a time, and in a given winter there is usually some snowfall. July is the warmest month with an average temperature of 74. In January, the coolest month, the average temperature is 40.1. Annual precipitation averages 47 inches. You can contact the local Chamber of Commerce at (828) 488-3681. The closest campgrounds are Fort Wilderness (828) 497-9331 and Smoky Trails (828) 497-2147. Numerous motels are close by in Cherokee, NC.
DEVELOPMENT
Union Acres has 80 acres of mostly wooded land surveyed into 7 acres of common land and 24 lots between 2 and 5 acres each. The initial development involved survey, roads, underground phone and power lines to each lot, as well as moneys appropriated for a Community Center. The Center is a passive solar design with meeting, kitchen, bathroom, and dining facilities. Most of the construction labor for the building was provided voluntarily by participating members. Finishing touches which await completion include cabinetry, flooring, and window trim.
People purchase lots in the community as they can afford, and some owners presently own more than one lot. Lots may be sold for a profit and are available for resale, negotiable directly with the owner. However, we are not interested in selling to persons who are not willing to live and actively participate in the community. Buyers may qualify for loans or provide their own financing. Interested parties may inquire about homes or properties available for sale.
Remember, you are not just purchasing your own place, but a share in the Union Acres Landowner Association, common funds and facilities, community center, gardens, nature trails, and meadow, with the right to enjoy and govern their use. Providing that agreements are upheld, every resident has a right of enjoyment of all common land, which shall be appurtenant to and pass with the title to every lot. 
RESIDENTS ASSOCIATION
Union Acres Residents Association is a not-for-profit corporation, organized
-to enhance social, cultural, economic, educational, and spiritual development in the Union Acres community
-to promote the health, safety, and welfare of the Union Acres community
-to promote harmonious cooperation and information exchange among residents and property owners in the Union Acres community
-to preserve the environmental integrity of Union Acres
-to construct and maintain a community center, roads, amenities, and nature trails on 7 acres of common property
Community governed property is managed by the members of the Residents Association. To be a voting member, landowners must comply with Covenants, Bylaws, and community-wide consensus agreements.
PRINCIPLES & CODES OF CONDUCT
All members of the community are interdependent and, consequently, we bear a responsibility for the effects of our actions on our neighbors. A few guidelines help assure appropriate behavior and promote community harmony, agreed upon by all members of Union Acres:
-to respect and hone the sacredness of all Life
-to support the common good
-to acknowledge our equality
-to be willing to resolve any conflict with an appointed mediator (if necessary)
-to uphold the Covenants and Restrictions of Union Acres and the Bylaws of the Association
-to support any consensus decisions of the membership
FORM OF GOVERNMENT
Majority decision making is the form of government most Americans are familiar with. Some of its limitations are that people take sides; meetings are limited to a debate format; some people win while others must loose. Consensus is another form of democracy. The goal of consensus democracy is to make decisions which everyone can support and/or accept. It is geared toward win-win solutions where there are no losers. It sometimes requires compromise. It is based on the principle that the good of the whole is the highest good.
With the guidance of a skilled facilitator, everyone helps to define issues, brainstorm possible solutions and consider alternative proposals. A course of action is determined which considers the needs and desires of all involved. Any form of democracy requires active participation from an informed educated constituency in order to work successfully. Circulation of ideas via bulletin board, e-mail and minutes will be used to make available relevant community information and announce the agenda for upcoming meetings.
Every adult member of the community upholding community agreements is entitled to participate in the decision making process at Union Acres. Committees may be appointed by the group to handle special tasks.
Consensus can be challenging. It requires skill, patience, openness to others and a willingness to compromise. If after considerable discussion there appears to be a deadlock,
Then the Governing Board of the Residents Association may be called upon to resolve the issue for the group. Consensus as we define it, does allow provision for the group to override a particular objection made by an individual if it is considered by the group to be unreasonable or uncooperative.The facilitator will attempt to define the sense of the group and assist them in deciding when consensus has been reached. When done well, the satisfaction of discovering solutions that are mutually inclusive can be very gratifying and rewarding. Participation in this community process fosters important qualities of patience, mutual respect, generosity, leadership and cooperation. Furthermore, these are essential traits as we move toward practicing earth stewardship in a more just and peaceful world. 
PROCESS FOR CONSENSUS MEETINGS
Landowners and residents of all ages are entitled to participate and to express their views at monthly business meetings. Participating permanent adult residents abiding by community agreements may vote on all issues. Membership in the Association may be suspended for any violation of Covenants, Bylaws or Agreements according to a decision by the Governing Board who shall be the judge of such violations.
Monthly Business Meetings are facilitated using the following format.
  1. Group attunement
  2. Financial and committee reports
  3. Agenda reviewed and prioritized
  4. For each item, each person has a chance to express their opinions or concerns
  5. Proposals and solutions are brainstormed and recorded
  6. Solutions are evaluated by the group
  7. The facilitator asks if consensus has been reached on an issue, if so, this is recorded
  8. New agenda items are submitted and the meeting is briefly evaluated
  9. There is a closing circle
THE COUNCIL
A Governing Board (Council) of from three to twelve resident members shall be appointed annually by the membership. These representatives shall be empowered to make certain decisions for the group based on the good of the whle while setting aside any personal agendas. It shall be the function of the Council to :
    1. Annually review how the Association is meeting set goals and the directives set forth in the Articles of Incorporation and advise the membership of ways to further these goals
    2. Attune each meeting to whole a vision of cooperative community, affirm the good of the whole and visualize peace and harmony at Union Acres.
    3. Advise members approaching them with concerns or disputes (after the parties in any dispute attempt to resolve the disagreement themselves). At the request of the parties involves, the Governing Board may appoint a mediator or arbitration committee (from persons mutually agreed by the parties involved) to settle personal disputes.
    4. Annually review all households for perceived breaches in agreements equally, using legal research, fairness, reasonableness and similar situations to guide their actions.
    5. Settle violations of Covenants, Restrictions, Bylaws or Consensus Agreements by appropriate means as set forth in the Covenants & Restrictions for Union Acres.
    6. Assess special dues only if necessary to insure the proper maintenance of communication among members, or the safety, welfare or maintenance of common property or easements due to timeliness needed, or to the failure or neglect of the membership to do so.
SYNERGY TREATY
The Governing Board will use the Union Acres Synergy Treaty when handling perceived breaches in Covenants, Bylaws, consensus agreements and guidelines. This provides a protocol for what steps the Board may take to facilitate resolution of any agreement violation. Some of the steps may occur concurrently; they may occur over a period of days, weeks or months. This plan presents a framework that may be followed, while allowing for flexibility. It shall be the intention of the Board to treat all members honorably, fairly and with respect. The protocol involves the following steps:
      1. Identify possible inappropriate action/inaction
      2. Investigate concerns and determine if a problem exists
      3. Notify parties involved and invite them to a special meeting or arbitration
      4. Determine appropriate redress and notify the parties in writing
      5. Follow up with resolution, or if redressed appreciate this.
FEES 
Annual assessments are levied on residents. Dues are $20 a month per household, plus $5 per person. Non residents are also required to contribute to maintenance costs. Special user fees may be charged to visitors or temporary residents for the enjoyment of the common property and community center. This green energy will come around the circle in ways that benefit the community and its residents. The moneys are placed in a general fund for such uses as maintenance of common roads, gardens and facilities, liability insurance, shared tools, recreation or services related to the use and enjoyment of the community. Moneys will be distributed among such community projects according to a consensus decision of participating members. 
COMMUNITY SERVICE
All adult resident members of the community are required to contribute a minimum of six hours per month of community service in ways best suited to their skills and experience. This service may be anything from managing the food coop, accounting, providing child care, attending meetings, recording and distributing meeting minutes, mowing the meadow, cleaning communal areas, maintaining and improving roads, pool and other common facilities, etc. 
COMMITTEES
There are several committees to help manage the work of running the community. Generally they meet once a month and report an update of their activities to the membership at monthly Business meetings. Committees are accountable to the membership and allocated an appropriate annual budget from community funds. Committees presently include: the Governing Board which oversees legal and administrative aspects; the Common Property Committee which organizes work parties, the Community Service committee which keeps an accounting of member volunteer hours and prioritizes community projects needing attention; the Budget committee; the PR/visitor committee which receives visitors and advertises and promotes the community; the Food Co-op committee and the Fun events committee which schedules celebrations and community play.
BUDGET PROCESS
Toward the end of the year, the Budget Committee asks members and committees to generate budget proposals for the upcoming year to be considered for funding by the membership. It then posts a comprehensive list of proposals on the Bulletin Board and presents it at a Business meeting. Budgets for the previous several years are also listed for comparison. Every member is given the opportunity of reviewing and evaluating each budget item, as well as the budget in its entirety. Members have the opportunity to contact committee members or sponsoring individuals if they wish to question or challenge a budget allocation.
At a business meeting, each item on the budget is reviewed individually and approved by consensus before it is adopted. The results of the final budget decision is noted in the meeting minutes and circulated to members. Moneys collected from the previous year’s dues are used to cover the following year’s expenses. The Budget committee then takes the agreed upon budget for the year and reduces it according to the rolled over amount from the previous year before circulating among the membership with projected dues assessments for the year ahead. Maintenance dues are determined based upon the projected costs divided by the number of member households.
For any budget proposal that was not thought of ahead of time, yet which the group considers timely and worthy of consideration later in the year, any member has the option of generating a proposal to be considered on a monthly Business meeting agenda. There is a savings and emergency fund available for such necessary or timely appropriations and to cover for disasters or emergencies. With the exception of Savings and emergency and Road moneys, which are rolled over each year back into their respective funds, any excess funds not used in a given year for any other category will automatically be rolled back into the General fund, thus reducing dues for the following year proportionally.
GUIDELINES FOR VISITORS & PROSPECTIVE MEMBERS
  1. When you plan a visit, please mail ahead a brief letter of introduction. This may be displayed on our Bulletin board to alert members to your upcoming visit.
  2. An member of the Visitor committee will coordinate a time for you visit so they may provide you with a tour of homes, common property and property for sale. You are strongly encouraged to plan your visit during the time of a community Business meeting or other planned event, so that you can meet some of our community members.
  3. If still interested, please read all the written materials, including Covenants and Bylaws and address any questions you may have to the a member of the Visitor committee.
  4. If still interested, present an in-depth letter about yourself and your interest in community. We recommend responding to some of the “suggested topics for discussion” listed in the next section. Should you request to pursue membership in Union Acres, this letter will be sent on to all residents and non-resident members.
  5. If you are applying for membership, you are encouraged to attend as many community functions (pot-lucks, committee meetings etc.) as possible and to visit personally with all available resident members. Our membership requirements involve attending at least one Business meeting and one Sharing, so please be sure to work these into your schedule.
  6. For formal adoption into the community, the Visitor committee will arrange a formal community Sharing for you and your family, for the purpose of a mutually convenient time. This meeting will be facilitated with active listening.
  7. Another membership requirement is to acquire at least 3 sponsors (participating members from separate households) who are willing to advocate for your adoption in to the community. The role of a sponsor is to spend a significant amount of time with you and become enthusiastic about your membership. Sponsors will try to get to know you in essence and willing to make an intuitive guess about you compatibility with Union Acres. We invite you to be open and share your personal history relevant to community and character growth, your control dramas and soul qualities.
  8. At a later time, members will hold a private meeting to discuss and reach consensus your adoption for membership.
  9. You will be asked to sign the Union Acres Agreement Checklist before official membership is finalized.
  10. Official adoption will occur at a Business meeting if there are a minimum of three sponsors present and consensus can be reached. There is no specific time requirement for the process of mutual acceptance. Realistically the process should take at least three months. If you can visit the community or stay near by for an extended period, the process may be shorter. Communications via mail, email or phone may be combined with briefer visits for those who live far away, and the Visitor committee will try to be helpful in streamlining the adoption process.
SUGGESTED TOPICS FOR DISCUSSION
How did you hear about Union Acres? Are you seriously interested in moving to our community, or just curious at this time? What is your time frame? Have you read our visitor packet and legal documents? What kinds of things are you looking for in a community? What kinds of experiences have you had, if any, in community or in collaboration with other in group endeavors? What kind of leadership structure do you seek in community? What experience if any have you had with consensus decision making? Do you enjoy group process such as Business or Committee meetings? Have you experienced therapy or other kinds of personal growth? How do you handle conflict or conflicts of interest? What pushes your buttons and how do you handle it? Are you interested in a spiritual path? Do you have a preference for spiritual or religious beliefs of the people living around you? Realistically, will you have much free time, skill ort interest to contribute to community activities? Are you aware of any shared interests we may have? What is your work and what are your hobbies? How do you envision making a living here in Western North Carolina? How do you like to play? Do you enjoy children? Who would live with you on your property (family, kids pets)? What, if any, is their interest in community? Are you willing, if you should ever sell, to limit the resale of your lot to someone who is adopted through our membership procedure?