Points Beyond: Building an ‘intentional community’ in Silverton

November 2017 Posted in Community

By Melissa WagonerSite plan

Something new is going on at the top of Danger Hill.

“We’ve heard people talk about us being a commune or a bunch of hippies,” laughed Victor Madge, architect of the project. “We’re not a commune.”

Instead, they are a group of friends, some for over 20 years, who are building what they are referring to as an intentional community of small houses.

“It’s a more traditional way of life,” Dana Smith, engineer, project manager, and Madge’s wife explained. “We weren’t always living in 25,000 sq. ft. It’s a very inefficient use of space.”

The property, formally named Points Beyond, will eventually contain 10 houses as well as a community building and various common spaces on a 1.4 acre parcel.

“The size varies from 800 sq. ft. up to 1,200 sq. ft. – two bedrooms for the most part.” Madge described. “They’re just really very efficient.”

Although community is the paramount reason the group of five households came together, creating a more sustainable lifestyle is a close second. To this end each cottage will be equipped with rainwater collection, gray water reuse and the option of solar panels.

“One of the ethics behind this is living lightly on the earth,” Smith said. “These are going to be brand new and super energy efficient.”

Living in a brand new space is an idea that is very appealing to Mike Leslie who, with his wife Lisa, is one of the original group of four.

“I’ve never lived in a new house in my entire life,” he laughed.

In fact, the Leslies recently sold their very old house, built in 1900, in order to embark on this new phase of their lives.

“Lisa and I have always had a vision of living in community since we lived in Portland,” Mike, a Silverton resident for the past 25 years said.

All of those interested in Points Beyond housing hold similar visions and that is what Smith thinks makes the group work.

“You’re not going to want to live in this close proximity with people that don’t have the same values,” she said.

Smith and Madge, who spent seven years living aboard a 39 foot sailboat in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. in the ‘90s, say their fondness for intentional living sprang from those early experiences.

“This whole idea of an intentional community is very much like living on the docks,” Smith said. Madge agreed, “Our society right now is set up to not interact and we’re all so busy.”

This interaction between households will be stimulated at Points Beyond in several key ways. The houses will be built nesting together in a circle with a common-house, a barn, an outdoor community space and garages interspersed. The idea being that residents will interact while they go about their daily lives, even while parking their cars and walking the distance to their private dwelling.

“We realized that we live in an automobile-centric era,” Madge said. “We looked at places that have parking elsewhere and it sets up for social interaction.”

Already on the property is an old barn which will be repurposed into a workshop and guesthouse with a greenhouse built onto the side. The community building will be a meeting place and house a small kitchen.

“It just sounds really exciting to have a community space right there,” Julie Adams, who is interested in becoming a resident, said.

Adams, who has already attended the requisite four meetings required to become a buyer, has lived in similar communities before. In her 20s she lived on Vashon Island in Washington, which she describes as “a whole island of intentional community.”

Although relatively new to the group, Adams is excited about the dynamic and how the inevitable disagreements will be solved.

“I’m pretty sure this group works on consensus, which is a really radical way of decision making,” she said. “The weakest person’s voice is always heard.”

Chris Bradberry, already an equity holder, agreed. “We’ve had disagreements all along and it’s the consensus thing,” he said. “We’ve had facilitated meetings where everyone gets their points heard.”

Points Beyond’s governance is set up similar to a condominium complex with a homeowners association (HOA) but unlike traditional HOAs this one is “very hands-off,” according to Madge.

“You’ll actually own not only your house but also your environs out to a certain point,” he explained. “There’s not this level of control and uniformity that you see in condominiums.”

The group holds monthly meetings in which they not only make decisions but also bond and welcome newcomers like Lisa and Carl Krigbaum who, along with their four-month-old daughter, recently became the youngest planned residents.

“Carl and I have talked about living in a community for the last decade,” Lisa Krigbaum said. “We heard about it from friends and showed up the same day.”

For the Krigbaums, whose dream is also to live more sustainably utilizing solar power and lowering water usage, many of their goals did not seem feasible on a minimal budget.

“This is the way we can do so many of the things and spread the cost,” she said.

Although the estimated purchase price of $300,000 per household may seem high considering the square footage, Smith thinks it is money well spent.  

“Most of the cost is the community owned property,” she explained. “A bigger place will have higher operating costs. It’s more about how you want to live versus the up-front.”

The group is also considering the option of adding apartments over the garages, which would allow for those who cannot afford to buy – possibly young families – to take part in the community and garner more diversity.

For Lisa Krigbaum, who does not have family nearby, diversity is a draw.

“The idea of raising Juniper with a surrogate family is really appealing,” she said. “It’s just exciting because it’s a dream realized. There’s a little bit of risk involved and that’s scary but I feel the reward is big.” 

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