While Rachel Carson EcoVillage has the unique advantage of its relationship to Chatham, it builds on a tradition of established communities, both ecovillages and cohousing, which are based on the same principles. In the United States today, there are over 160 ecovillages and cohousing communities.
This outlines a three-stage path to membership in the Rachel Carson EcoVillage. Its purpose is to provide a guide to the process of introducing people to the ecovillage and forming the group that will develop it. This only applies to the process before occupancy. Once the ecovillage is under construction, this will be revised, as the process for joining will be different then, and there may be other categories of membership. The path to membership allows each household to move at their own pace.
I. RCE Inquirer
Anyone is invited to learn about our community and engage in activities with members. The purpose of being an Inquirer is to become acquainted with the ecovillage. Inquirers have no responsibilities to the group except to let us know whether or not they are interested in moving to the next stage of membership. We anticipate that this stage might take from one to three months.
By word of mouth, published articles, social media, and other outreach activities, we invite anyone who is interested to attend an introductory meeting, which we offer regularly. The meeting includes an introduction to the ecovillage, a tour of the site and Eden Hall campus, and a chance to ask questions and meet other interested people. The path to membership is explained at the meeting. Inquirers’ contact information is added to our list so that we may alert them to upcoming meetings or events. Inquirers automatically become members of The Pittsburgh Cohousing Group.
We ask Inquirers to indicate an interest in becoming an Explorer member at any point by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Besides the introductory meeting, Inquirers may attend other ecovillage activities that are announced to the our contact list or publicly. If we have not heard from an Inquirer for several months, we may inquire about their interest or drop them from the contact list. (Contact lists are maintained by the Administrative planning group.)
II. RCE Explorer Membership
The purpose of the Explorer Membership is to give interested people a low-risk opportunity to see whether the ecovillage is the right “fit” and a chance to get to know their potential new neighbors. Explorer members are active members, who are involved in planning group and full group meetings. Explorer memberships enable prospective ecovillage members to get to know others in the community, understand our plans, our budgets, our requirements for contributions, and the risks attached to those contributions.
Explorer members are responsible for participating in a planning group and taking an active part in full group meetings in order to help develop the ecovillage. Responsibilities may also include various tasks such as meeting with a new Inquirer, helping organize an event, helping draft a document, doing some research, or facilitating a meeting. Explorer members will be invited to take part in learning and establishing our sociocratic governance practices, including attending a workshop. They will also participate in ecovillage design workshops.
Inquirers who want to become Explorer members will complete an Explorer membership form and pay a non- refundable fee of $150 per individual, which entitles them to four months of participation in business meetings, social events, and one-on-one meetings with members. At four months, the member may choose to extend Explorer membership at $75/quarter or move forward as an Equity member. If this presents a hardship for any individual, we also a $75 reduced cost membership level. Explorer fees are credited toward unit purchase price for those who move to the next stage.
III. RCE Equity Memberships – 2 Levels
(as of 08/16/2020)
1. Equity – Pioneer
2. Equity – Pathfinder
Equity-Pioneer and Equity-Pathfinder members are individuals or households who have decided to purchase a dwelling in the ecovillage. An Explorer member who wants to advance to Equity membership will have attended at least one full group meeting and participated in a planning group, will be aware of the risks and benefits involved, and will be conversant with the ecovillage values, policies, and practices.
They will complete the requirements listed on the Equity Membership form, which follows.
1. Equity – Pioneer Membership
Equity-Pioneers make advance deposits up to the value of the down payment on their unit. In return they become members of Rachel Carson EcoVillage LLC, have decision-making responsibilities, and have priority in unit selection. The advance deposits from the Equity-Pioneers fund the pre-construction costs such as survey, testing, design and engineering, public agency approvals, and legal and financing costs. We have prepared an estimated schedule of the timing of preconstruction costs to coordinate contributions with cash flow. All advance deposits are nonrefundable and are credited to the down payment of the household’s purchase price. The date of Equity-Pioneer membership will determine priority in unit selection in the development. Early membership incentive: If the effort is successful, the first ten Equity-Pioneers who acquire a unit will receive a credit of $4,000 (double the $2,000 membership deposit, as discussed below) toward the purchase price of their unit.
The development will seek construction financing from a bank. It is expected that the bank will require Equity-Pioneers to obtain a pre-qualification for a mortgage (if they intend to take out a mortgage) and to commit a 20-25% down payment before authorizing construction of units. The bank may also require that they provide personal guarantees. If the bank requires all units in a building to be committed before releasing funds for the construction of that building, then buildings will be built as they are committed, and units will come available for Equity-Pioneer members in accordance with construction sequencing. Depending on the rate of sales, construction might be completed in as little as one year or as long as three years.
If the effort to create the ecovillage does not succeed, no Equity-Pioneer member should expect to receive any refund or other benefit for whatever payments they have made. However, if the project is abandoned, Rachel Carson EcoVillage, LLC, will make a good faith effort to prorate refunds from any funds that remain unexpended after all expenses are paid.
Further, if the ecovillage effort is successful but a household is not able to participate for any reason including personal choice, inability to qualify for a loan, or life changes, then that household may buy out of the project by finding an interested household that qualifies for Equity-Pioneer membership and can take over for the prior member. Reimbursement for any payments by the prior household will be paid by Rachel Carson EcoVillage, LLC once all the units have been sold.
The success of the vision and future solvency of Rachel Carson EcoVillage, LLC cannot be guaranteed, so households are advised not to risk any money they are not prepared to lose.
2. Equity – Pathfinder Membership
Equity-Pathfinders have decided to purchase a dwelling in the ecovillage but are not in a financial position to become Equity-Pioneers.
An Equity-Pathfinder household makes advance deposits totaling $15,000 to the LLC prior to construction. These deposits are not included in the money that covers development costs and do not change anything in the calculations based on the Equity-Pathfinder membership described above. The Equity-Pioneers are the members whose numbers determine the pace of the project and whose deposits cover the pre-construction costs.
The Equity-Pathfinder’s advance deposit applies to the purchase of the household’s unit. It is not at risk. During the development phase it may be used by the LLC to cover a short-term cash flow shortage, but once construction starts, it will be available in full should the member household need to withdraw from the project or the project is terminated.
Equity-Pathfinders are entitled to unit selection in accordance with their date of membership. After Equity-Pioneers have made their selections, Equity-Pathfinders will select in the order of their seniority. This selection will occur prior to construction and will include all buildable units. It is possible that Equity-Pathfinders whose units are in the first construction phase may need to deposit their full down payment prior to construction, depending on the bank’s requirements.
Equity-Pathfinders will participate fully in discussions regarding any decisions that have a financial or legal impact on the ecovillage. In keeping with a lower level of risk, they will not be members of Rachel Carson EcoVillage, LLC and therefore will not have that legal liability. Nor will they be asked to make a personal guarantee for the ecovillage construction loan.
In other respects, Equity-Pathfinders have the same role and responsibilities as Equity-Pioneers.
Equity Membership Responsibilities
Membership in the ecovillage means taking an active part in the life of the community. After moving in, all members are expected to participate in the daily activities of the community, which are run on a volunteer basis. This includes participating in social activities, common meals, and community-related upkeep and maintenance. For example, for common meals in many communities, a rotating team of volunteers plans the menu, purchases supplies, prepares and serves the meal, and cleans up afterwards. Similarly, for community upkeep and maintenance, members assign tasks, plan the work schedule, and arrange for resources. Our experience is that people do best what they enjoy most. We suggest that members make clear their areas of interest and skills so their volunteer activities have the greatest benefit to the community and the greatest satisfaction for themselves.
We have chosen the sociocratic method of governance for making community decisions. In this method, all members are given the opportunity to take part in determining what is best to do for the community. We do this respectfully even when there might be initial differences of opinion regarding the preferred decision. We practice compassionate communication to accomplish this. For more details regarding the sociocratic method of governance, please see the information in our shared documents.
To obtain Equity Membership:
- We request that all Equity members provide a short biography and photograph so other members can learn about their interests and background, if they have not already done so as an Explorer member. If you have no objection, they will be included in the “meet our members” section of our website.
- All Equity members will be responsible for obtaining whatever financing they require for the purchase of their prospective unit. Pre-qualification is not required for Equity membership, but it’s a good idea to look into it.
- As a show of good faith, all Equity members are required to make an initial membership deposit of $2,000 per household. Previous payments for Explorer memberships will be credited towards the final payment for the member’s down payment.
- Equity members will make additional deposits during the preconstruction period in amounts not to exceed either $15,000 (Pathfinders) or the expected down payment for their chosen unit (Pioneers). The schedule of upcoming payments will be announced in time to be ready for it.
- All adults are required to provide evidence that they have no record of child abuse. This is accomplished by getting a PA Act 33 Clearance. The procedure is described in Appendix B. It takes about two weeks and costs $13.
- A meeting with the Legal/Finance Planning Group is required for each household prior to becoming an Equity member to review the agreement and discuss any questions or concerns.
The Equity Membership policy may be revised by future decisions of the ecovillage group.