We propose to create a village that is a model for practical environmentalism and sustainable community development. Our plan provides for the development of facilities and amenities necessary to sustain a lively and diverse community, while maximizing our ability to conserve the natural and historical qualities of the land. As the site design, architectural codes, and initial building designs have evolved, our efforts have focused on finding an appropriate balance between community life and conservation.
The village will encourage and celebrate creativity and whimsy, aesthetic design, and quality construction in the built environment; an environmental ethic based on the idea of creating a sustainable balance between the ecological footprint of a varied human habitat and the natural ecology of the region; and a social ethic based on respect, toleration, civility, and appreciation of differences.
The site plan and associated codes, guidelines, and restrictions, reflects the best principles and practices of traditional neighborhood development and conservation design. The settlement pattern is to be compact and set within well defined limits, carefully arranged to maintain views, protect significant plant and animal habitats, and conserve features that reflect the natural history of the area.
The site plan provides a range of building opportunities for community members: from a pastoral farmhouse to a cabin in the woods, from detached houses clustered around a secondary conservation area to cohousing facilities and live-work artist studios in the mixed-use center of the village.
In design, we look for the optimal balance between the number of households sufficient to support the amenities, shared facilities, and community life that we hope to cultivate, and our ability to conserve both natural beauty and opportunities for privacy and seclusion.
Architectural guidelines serve a crucial function in community development, making possible a high level of creativity within a framework of responsibility to one’s neighbors and to the land. Guidelines focus primarily on issues concerning the way the building sits on the site, building typology, relation to the land and neighbors, massing, and the use of appropriate building materials and technologies. The guidelines are intended to encourage alternative building technologies oriented toward increasing energy efficiency and the use of renewable energy sources.
With respect to architectural character, the guidelines are intended to serve as design resources rather than restrictive definition of allowable “styles.” Codes define a palette of building forms, typologies, and materials that are historically, climactically, and/or technologically appropriate to the region. The goal is to encourage development of a distinctive village architecture, an architecture that reflects the best of the local vernacular, that embodies the best practices in environmentally responsible building, and which is sensitive to the form and character of the land.
Because our estimated number of households will be too small to support some things that we would like to have within walking distance, and in keeping with our understanding that no community can or should be sustained in isolation, we look to facilities in the village core to attract visitors: the artists’ studios, the educational and cultural programs, conferences and workshops. The village core will help to support diversity among the residents as well as a diversity of interactions with a broader population, and will provide residents with the possibility of such amenities as a bakery or café where the coffee is always hot and the bread is always fresh.
It is important that this will not be a gated enclave, but as a village which will be part of the larger community of western North Carolina, interacting with residents of surrounding communities and providing services and programs that will be of value to the region as well as to ourselves. In particular, we see our village playing a role as a model for sustainable development, and as an educational center for practical environmentalism. Activities will be organized with the interests of the residents in mind, but also with a sense of responsibility to its neighbors as well.
We need to be clear that our goal is sustainable community, not a valley littered with isolated vacation cabins. Our primary goal– through careful design and coding, a clear statement of principles, intelligent and on-going management, the definition of techniques for conflict resolution and self-governance, and the foundation of a non-profit vision-keeping entity– is to create a place in which it is possible to see each new household as a positive contribution to the life, diversity, and value of the community.
Throughout the community, except for roads, building footprints and agricultural and common areas, the land will remain as undisturbed as possible. The use of pavement and other non-pervious surfaces will be minimized and strictly regulated. Non-native plants will be required to be container-grown, or closely monitored in the community gardens (to insure that we do not introduce invasive or destructive species into the local ecosystem). Potential endangerment of native habitat and wildlife by domestic animals will be closely monitored and regulated.
We value education and life-long learning. In this spirit, the High Cove Institute will provide lifelong learning, research and service opportunities to residents, associates and visitors; its main mission will be to build and strengthen relationships both within the community and with the greater local community.
The shared vision that attracted the first members of the community will be sustained by institutional as well as the built infrastructure of common spaces and facilities. The High Cove Institute will be modeled on the “community support organizations” that can be found in many new communities, such as the Seaside Institute in Seaside, and the Abacoa Partnership for Community in Abacoa (a project of the MacArthur Foundation). The High Cove Institute will be established as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization.
The Institute will have a dual mission. It will be responsible for conservation in the preserved lands, as well as supporting and facilitating environmental, educational, and cultural activities within the community. At the same time, it will have a broader educational mission in relation to the principles and practices of sustainability embodied in High Cove Village, developing environmental and educational programs with broader relevance to western North Carolina and to the rest of the country. We will educate about organic agriculture, house design including techniques for the use of least-toxic building materials, alternative technologies, energy efficiency and reuse and recycling.
The role of the High Cove Institute as vision-keeper will not be an abstraction or simply nice words. During the planning and design of the community, the development group will develop a set of environmental and “quality of life” indicators to enable us to measure the extent to which we are meeting our twin goals of conservation and high-quality community life. These indicators will be refined as the community is built, and will provide a basis for frequent assessment of the community’s sustainability.