So….imagine…..just for a minute….

….a small, isolated and remote up-the-BC-coast village.  Twenty five or so cabins sprinkled higgledy-piggledy on a slanted 10 acres of ocean front.  It has a store, a cafe and a minimal amount of services although water, power and sewer are in.  Power is communal solar and communal generator supplemented by your own small units.  Plenty of water.  Maybe 25 buildings.  Population in the ‘village’ is around 40-50 in the summer, maybe half in the dead of winter. Population on the rest of the island is another 60 or so. Maybe 200 in the general vicinity, 300 in the political catchment area.  The village has a school, a community centre and a dock complete with a post-office on it.  Bi-weekly (every two weeks) doctor visits in the clinic.  Yoga on Wednesday.

Your cottage site is amongst the 25 or so and consists of just enough land to build on and have a small garden.  The rest of the property is the ‘commons’.  It is a ‘village’ after all. You do not own the land.  The village is incorporated and it owns the land and leases it to you for $1.00 a year for 25 years at a time.  There are building guidelines so that the village is pleasant looking but it is NOT as tightly controlled as some controlled and gated suburbs in the city.  Roughly speaking, you can build up to 750 sft, it can not exceed 1.5 storeys, it should probably be board-and-batten siding and metal roofing but not necessarily.  It has to be somewhat minimalist in it’s power consumption but there will be telephone and internet.  Other than that, you are off-the-grid for the most part.

Or, something along those lines…..basic needs, the environment, harmony, good taste and common sense prevails.

Generally speaking, you can have whatever windows you want, whatever door you want, whatever interior configuration you want and that sort of thing.  But it has to be built to the national building code in most regards….a bit of relaxation when it comes to some things (wanna give stack-wall construction a try?  Fine.   Want some stonework?  No problem)…..the village decides on your plan with consideration for others and environmentalism uppermost in mind.  Until the village is populated, a small development group will decide what is permissible using the same criteria.  But there will be emphasis on live and let live with respect and good manners for your neighbours.  You want round windows and triangle doors?  Go for it – no harm done.

The village CAN build your place for you….if you want.  Or you can build it yourself if you want.  You can do some of it and the village can do some of it….just work out the details on a per customer, per contract basis.  Each household is independent.  There will eventually be a village council but it’s mandate will be severely limited to maintenance and ‘problem solving’.  No cars in the village  but, instead, maybe golf carts, boardwalks, trails and paths.  Real vehicles will be parked at the upper edge and will likely consist of few shared pick-ups as there is really no where to go.  A couple of communal vans for book club maybe.

The ‘theme’ or spirit is that of a retirement village.  Sleepy.  NOT ‘party’.  But with enough ‘other types’ sprinkled in to keep it from zombification.  Some larger-building sites will be available for young families.  Maybe.  Some apartments for the needing-more-care types. Maybe.

Your entry fee is $25K or whatever all the services and the land costs determine (should be close to that in my estimation).  Money held in trust with national law firm til we have enough to get going (likely 20 shares at least have to be sold but 8 have said yes so far).  You get one of only 25 shares in the village corporation. It can be submitted in $10K chunks but it has to be all in before you undertake construction.  Time limit: three years.  The sum will be put towards building the infrastructure and buying the land.  Every dollar accounted for. No profit taking.  Just village building.  The village will own the land but you will have a ‘share’ in the village ‘company’.

You can sell that share if you want to (after you have paid it off).  Later.  You will also own your house – when you build it.  If you eventually leave, you sell your village share and your building (for whatever you can get for a house with round windows and triangle doors) or else you sell your village share and take your building with you.  Most people would opt for the former.

“Hmmmmmm…..assuming everything you say is true and accurate with all the legal issues resolved and all that……25 sites…….10 acres……so, in effect, I own almost half an acre?”

Nope.  You DO NOT OWN THE LAND!  You lease it for a nominal sum.  Likely a maintenance fee, too, for taxes and typical village expenses.  Council controlled.

“But I own my house?”

Yes.  Like you own your own car but pay to park it in the office parkade.  Bigger space, tho.  Prettier, too.

“Can I live there part-time?  Like just for the summer?”

Yep.  There will likely be summer-only-residents, seasonal (6-8) month types and full-timers. You can even rent it out if you want…or the village will act as rental management for you – for a fee.

“Got a place for my boat?”  

Depending on size….yes.  Probably.  Maybe.  The property has a water lot lease but the dock would have to be built.  Same model as above, most likely.

“If you guys build my place for me, what is the cost?”

Don’t know.  Different counter tops for different folks.  But, generally speaking, think $200-250 a sft.  All construction done on a cost-plus basis.  Local builders.  You see the receipts and you pay them plus 15% for the plus part going to supervision of the subtrades.  The good part?  No salary for the village council.  Maybe an honorarium. The village is non-profit.

“Who picks my site?”

Typical mechanism.  First come-first served.  But they will all have water view and water access and be in a park-like setting.

“Why are you asking me this hypothetical question?”

Just wondering if there are enough people interested to make such a village work.  If 25 of you said, “I like it, we’re in.”, then I may do it.  Maybe not.  Just wondering.  First step though, would be to take deposits so that the land can be had and so you’d have to ‘pony up’ at least $10K pretty quick…say within three months.  I won’t take any fees until I really do something and just buying the land is not fee worthy.

“Is this for real?”

No.  Not yet.  Depends on how you, dear reader, responds.  If five of my readers do not step up then I cannot realistically expect to find the other 15 or so by way of marketing and advertising.   I have five locals already indicating yes but, for a non-profit, minimal fee effort, I need no risk.  Full commitment up front.  I would need some serious encouragement to undertake this even then and you are the indicator. Or not.  Either way, it’s OK with me.  Just wondering………


16 thoughts on “So….imagine…..just for a minute….

  1. Very compelling idea and I’d take part. Accessibility if not a big issue now will emerge as an issue in the future. As will various environmental issues if not now then later. This is an exciting idea that you propose.


  2. Accessibility is simple and relatively easy but still muscle and energy requiring. One would ‘drive’ to the local departure dock and ramp (which can be steep depending on the tide), get in a boat, travel for a short time and then depart on the ‘other side’ dock. The village is right there. Small cart, buggy, shanks mare to cabin maybe two hundred feet up the way. Boardwalks, stairs, small conveyances to make it easy. A person in a wheelchair could do it but to what end? So much of what is out here is for the ambulatory but they need not be athletic or even all that active with a little planning. The hardest part? The first hill on the civilized side (other island). You can drive down that hill and unload packages but the vehicle has to go back to the top so someone has to walk down the hill.


  3. Sounds a bit like Refuge Cove. We live on a lease water lot, but own our own cabin home. The down side for us, if we lose the water lease we lose a place for our home. Hope it never comes to that. Your proposal would protect the lot for the homeowners. A much better proposition. By the way, I just read your book and loved it. We left the big city but landed on Powell Lake in an off the grid float cabin. Not as remote as your place, but we love it. – Margy


    • Thanks, Margy. Glad you liked the book. Hope you laughed.

      Yeah, the village ‘owning’ the land provides a lot of stability and maybe giving everyone an ‘option’ for renewal would make them even happier. Pretty much had to propose it this way to avoid subdividing and all that crap. I have no idea if I’ll do it. There is some support but OTG’ers are still rare birds and it’s a big job…so…..I’ll see what the response is like. And, like most things, there is a magic to momentum. We’ll either get some or not.


  4. Sounds like a fun place.
    Im just turning into a grumpy old curmudgeon in my latter years and 10 acres is the minimum I’d like for myself. ( perhaps I should have included “greedy” in my self description????).
    My experiences with “committees” isnt very stellar either. Lots of know-nothings creating “issues” out of thin air that must be dealt with in touchy feely politically correct gender neutral ways. When the community septic field starts overflowing ….it aint “meetings” that are gonna shovel shit…….
    My grandfather owned a small tidal “island” in PEI. About 20 acres..
    In the 1930’s he built 5 cottages for family(his sons and daiughters) and to rent to friends if they were available. Bare in mind it was all related family that lived in these cottages…. After one generation, one son had died and his wife remarried and had kids. The next generation brought divorce, job loss, death, etc. .The owners/families drifted apart and barely spoke. Our family(the last of the “originals”) sold our cottage to strangers in the early 80’s because we would visit and have to deal with repairing broken windows, stolen firewood, etc….
    I have a friend that bought a huge cabin on 5 acres on Gambier with 3 other friends/ coworkers back in the 70’s. The rule(legal document) going into the partnership was ” If you sell you have to give the other partners 1st dibs to buy you out.” Simple.
    After 25 years and two “buyouts” one guy owns 3/4’s of the cabin and the other guy owns 1/4 …and he refuses to sell. He’s a party animal. Trashes the place every 1/4 of the month he has the place. They arent speaking, Hate each others guts. Have come to blows. Sued each other. The 3/4 owner would love to sell. Cant. because the other guy says he hasnt got the cash to buy him out. Why would he buy the 3/4’s? The other guy spends all HIS time cleaning his mess up…..
    Nah. Shared,cooperative ownership , while in the beginning, starts with the best of intentions, can be a legal and financial nightmare.
    All it takes is one infected “apple” to ruin the entire tree.


    • NO question; that is a MAJOR threat and maybe even a likely possibility. I started my role in it by declaring that I would attend no meetings! Plus, I have to be the boss until there are enough people to hand it to. I can’t stand the endless talk, the politics and the wastes of time associated with committees. Having said that, we have a lot of old hippies who never committed to building equity and yet have land on which they live isolated. They NEED a village for support now. So, it seemed to be a good idea to gather the bunch closer and make it as cheap as possible. But it is a questionable exercise, I give you that. If I got a whole pile of enthusiasm, I would do it but this is NOT one of my projects I HAVE TO MAKE happen. So, it may not happen. And I am OK with that.


      • Yeah , I hate being the doomsayer.
        I’ve personally been involved in shared ownership and, after 10 years, it ended up being a nightmare that dragged on for another 5 years..
        As well as watching other people get dragged through the same scenario.
        What may start as a happy, reasonable group of people can quickly devolve into a squabbling, antagonistic, free for all of ‘us” vs “them”. A real life version of “Survivor”.
        It may not be a crisis that brings about disagreement. It can be something as simple as one person feeling the others arent “pulling their fair share” of the work load.
        How DO you define “fair share” in a legal document.?.
        And I have yet to see any “divorce” end with everyone “happy” except the fee charging lawyers of course.


        • Now don’t forget…no one owns, they lease. And the cottage is small. Their ‘investment’ is minimized. Still, it is large enough for most of us. Secondly, every neighbourhood has problems so that is to be expected now and again. And thirdly, this is largely ‘senior’ and ‘sleepy’ oriented so – as nutty as seniors can be – they are mostly harmless. The real ‘pressure relief’ is getting away in the winter. Which one can do if their place is watched and it is NOT their entire nest egg. Please do NOT take this as a salespitch’. Everything you say is true. But I hope to mitigate some of it. Maybe 30%. People are dickheads and that will show up but hopefully it will show up as picayune and infrequent. IF we do this thing at all.


  5. Would this have worked on say, Burke Mountain, if the Liberals hadn’t given it away in April of this year?
    It sure would have been more affordable than purchasing a home for plus a $million range. I think your scheme has merit, but as I age I’d be more predisposed if it were closer to civilization. But as you describe it, I could have one further out for my youth, and one closer in as I age.
    Great idea!


    • Thanks, JA. Great idea but, as NCV states below, could be a nightmare. Small villages work some places. Many don’t. Maybe it could work here? Maybe not? I’ll play this one by ear.
      My problem with ‘closer to civilization’ is that that sounds good, too, but it is not. Usually the older person dies alone and no one knows for a week. Or they are lonely and ‘useless’ for the last ten years. Nothing civilized about that. Not to me.


      • Well, I’m not quite useless, yet. Does that mean I have another ten years left?
        Damn, I should get me a Sal. Nothing worse than being dead for a week and no one knowing!


        • Yeah. I think that’s about right…you have about ten years of inflicting your useless self on others before you expire – unless they hurry you along in some way. Sal says I have been dead for a week now and then…but she noticed at least. Seems my primary indicator is pouring the wine. Did I do it or not? Take his pulse!


  6. I’ve been thinkin’. You (or we) are going to purchase the land, provide sewer, water and power for $625,000? Seems a bit tight, unless you have a Liberal friend that dispenses land parcels. The store and café would be run by one of the villagers I presume?
    “The village has a school, a community centre and a dock complete with a post-office on it.” I get the PO and the CC, but what about the school? Current government can’t fund the schools we have! I’m not trying to pour water on your enterprise – far from it. I’m intrigued.
    I believe there is a model for your proposal at Brighton Beach, up Indian Arm. I know very little about it, but it might provide a basis for further exploration. Wintertime is great for hatching these ideas!


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