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Priority Zone Is Another Name for Intentional Community
Maine's HP1489 acknowledges that when the default municipal zone is unregulated short-term rentals, every other cultural purpose has to be defined as an intentional community.
I was born into that rare moment in history when the greatest amount of wealth was distributed among the greatest number of people. Generations raised after the seventies have no memories of that time.
Even in the 1950’s the enterprise that my parents created was very different from the way of the world around us. While growing up on a farm in Iowa and reading Scientific America, Dad discovered what was, in my father’s day, an emerging new field called Industrial Design.
Industrial Design can mean designing for industry, or it can mean, as Dad interpreted it “designing an industry” from the raw materials to the finished product to the marketing of the finished product, Dad redesigned an industry and my parents operated it from our home. They owned their own, using as their investment funds, the sale of a Levittown styled house that Dad was able to purchase as a veteran and a small business loan.
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Most people do not get to experience this kind of lifestyle, as the world has become increasingly structured as a hierarchy where everyone has their place designated by the few who pull the strings to keep the rich getting richer and provide the rest with just enough to keep them in their places. Since greed is stronger than wisdom, and since the few are so disconnected from the perceptions and experiences of those they rule, the calculation of what the many need to keep them docile has evolved into the delusional, as the rulership class continues unaware of what is taking place in the working classes.
Our local leaders want “the workforce”, not the working classes. The term “workforce” is used to designate one segment of the working classes- those who are employed by another, preferably corporations in the state’s targeted industries, and those who perform the essential services that a community can’t do without. It does not include the self-employed workers. All you have to do is look to the housing solutions that are being developed to confirm this interpretation of the signifier, “workforce”. In Maine it is written into HP 1489 enacted in 2022, that the State, collaborating with large development corporations will coordinate the building of large tightly packed housing developments, called “affordable housing”, but not really within the reach of those with the lowest income, or 60% and under the median income, the demographic where the largest housing shortage is concentrated.
Report finds affordable housing unavailable for more than half of Maine’s poorest renters
Housing subsidies go to owners who prioritize profits accommodated by the income qualification for affordable housing being raised to 80% or under the median income and 120% or under the median income to qualify for home ownership, leaving those with the lowest income to go to the back of the line.
A State acting in partnership with private interests is just a corporation with special authority to write the rules of the game in which it is also a player.
The people have to create their own alternatives. One way of doing so is through intentional communities.
Dad’s roots in the farmlands of Iowa influenced the manufacturing method that he developed. Farmers have a deep connection to nature that engages them day in and day out, year after year but the forties were an era when family farms were being overtaken by corporate farming. The goal of the industrial design of Andersen Design was engagement in the process, as farmers love to farm, so do ceramists love to create products from the materials of the earth.
To design for industry is to design a product. To design an industry is to design systems within systems. Whenever we hired a new accountant, they would soon be commenting on how complex our business was. In systemic thinking, everything exists in relationship to its context, which is especially important today when the overriding context is climate change.
My parent’s originality made us different. When I was a young person, different meant that we didn’t belong. When I am older it means people don’t accept who you are as it doesn’t fit their paradigm. Sometimes I think it isn’t that people don’t respond to my ideas, it’s that they don’t think I should have ideas. It’s “inappropriate”, as Wendy Wolf told me in her own way of speaking when I approached her as head of the Joint Economic Development Council of Boothbay and Boothbay Harbor and she refused to acknowledge my presentation of a museum concept, telling me to “go get help from my own peer group”. In her paradigm she identifies herself as at a much higher echelon in the hierarchy than I and so I should not approach her. In her paradigm, the town is a corporation and everyone in it is encompassed by the corporate hierarchy that has a rulership class and peons. Wendy Wolf designated me as a peon of her own making.
In my paradigm, Wendy Wolf is a public servant who was spending my property tax dollars to benefit those she considered to be her peer group while denying our family any benefit from the public service that our taxpayer dollars were funding. As head of the JECD, Wolf spent 79000.00 public dollars to hire consultants from a distant location to write a local plan, a plan that called for museums, but she didn’t think that a mere community member should be allowed to participate in museum-making. Developing our community is the role of higher-ups, like herself and whomever she counts among her peer group.
And there you have it, the disconnect between the elite rulership class and the working classes. Wendy Wolf’s paradigm represents the world that seems to entrench many people I encounter so that before they can even consider one’s ideas, they have to consider whether it is “appropriate” for one to have an idea. I can’t get past first base on that scoreboard!
Today “innovation” is capital. Maine State Inc. has even written it into the educational statutes, striking out every instance of the word “restructure” which is based in history, and replacing it with “innovate” identified, within the statutory text as “making one’s own rules”, like a system outside of the context of other systems.
While the peons are discouraged from thinking outside the hierarchal paradigm, most of the time, there is an entire area of research dedicated to how to get those same peons to innovate when they are engaged within facilities owned by the public-private upper echelons of the hierarchy because innovation is twenty-first-century corporate gold.
I attended an Artists Talk at the Barn in Southport, Maine, with which I felt a great amount of resonance, but I was deeply disturbed by the part of Morgan Mitchell’s presentation where she says that a group community-created artwork is destroyed after it is created so that it can become a collage in another work.
I otherwise resonated with Ms. Morgan’s approach to the creative process as initiated without pre-conceptions about the outcome. I liked that it is a process that engages community involvement in a common project. She calls it the flow process, which I understand because it is the way I worked when I was a painter.
The message of the process became very corporate at the end of Ms. Michell’s presentation when one person gets to decide the fate of the community-created artwork as if it is part of the creative process of being “unattached to outcomes”, and yet destroying the group work at the end of the session is a foregone conclusion. a pre-determined outcome of the process.
My creative painting process also began with not knowing where it was going, flowing with the impulses directed by subliminal consciousness, but the process evolved to become a particularly focused attention to detail which is the realization process in which we manifest ideas in the real world by paying attention to details and following a plan. I don’t identify with the entire point of the creative process as an attitude of detachment. I think the purpose of the process is to discover a deeper purpose or to discover what one actually wants to say and to manifest that as part of the culture in which we live. I would like Ms. Mitchell’s flow process to conclude with an interpretive session in which everyone tells what they see in the work and then lets the creators of the work decide where to take it from there.
At the point when one person, alone, decides the fate of group work, that person becomes the owner of the product of the group creativity and the process takes on aspects of the academic-corporate search for a methodology that will engage the worker’s innovative skills within the corporate ownership framework, for the benefit of the ownership class, detaching the creator’s own selves from ownership identification with the work. Taking detachment to such an extreme translates as “Do not be attached to the fruits of our own creativity because your creativity doesn’t belong to you.” But it does belong to the entity that makes the decision about its fate, or the entity that owns the facilities where the creativity occurs.
At the same time, such an act mirrors the cultural destructivity of the developer mentality that has descended upon this peninsula in the last ten years, demolishing the peninsula’s history at a rate that I have never seen since my family settled here in 1952.
It is appropriate that creative work done on the job belongs to the employer because the employee is being compensated and those are the terms of the agreement, but the centralized systemic community design implemented by public-private developers is planned in such a way that the workers have no space in which to work except in facilities owned by the public-private elite.
Workforce living spaces are being downsized in concentrated housing developments such as those planned by the Boothbay Regional Development Corporation, and workforce boarding houses are eliminating individual kitchens and living spaces so that there is no working space that belongs to the individual. While the individual living spaces are being squeezed so small, and deprived of any land ownership, the corporate institutional spaces are made glamourous and large. and non-profits, which do not pay property taxes, are buying up much of our land. The proposed new school is said to have twice the amount of square feet per student as is found in schools across the region. The planned individual living spaces are described as half the size as the standard for comfort, and this is an “affordable housing development” in a wealthy community.
Workers are not only excluded from the opportunity to own property in the material world but also, by community design, from owning what is within their own mind, which is in many cases, the worker’s only form of capital to aid in rising to a better level of financial stability and independence.
So Let’s Innovate Our Own Communities!
In 2022 the Maine legislature, under the advisement of a group of private realtors and developers, enacted LD 2003 as HP 1489.
This legislation transferred municipality authority over housing density and community character from local government as authorized by the Maine constitutional Home Rule Amendment and handed it over to the State, authorized by the new statutory law, where it remains the practicing rule of law until it is successfully challenged in the courts as unconstitutional pursuant to the Home Rule Amendment.
A month after enactment, The Boothbay Regional Development Corporation was formed with Commissioner Erin Cooperrider at its helm:
HP 1489 calls for priority development zones in every Maine municipality which must be approved by the State Department of Economic and Community Development:
SUBCHAPTER 7 13 PRIORITY DEVELOPMENT ZONES 14 §5250-U.
Priority development zones required
A municipality shall designate an area within the municipality as a priority development zone. A priority development zone must be located in an area that has significant potential for housing development and is located near community resources, as determined by the Department of Economic and Community Development. A priority development zone must comply with the requirements of this section and any rules adopted under subsection 3.
1. Definitions. For the purposes of this section, the following terms have the following meanings.
A. "Community resources" means services available to the community within a municipality, including but not limited to transportation, schools, recreational opportunities and any other services provided by the municipality. "Community resources" also includes business and employment opportunities within the municipality.
B. "Priority development zone" means a zone in which owned or rented multifamily housing composed of both market rate units and units that meet the definition of "affordable housing" under section 4301, subsection 1 is permitted at a specified density that is greater than the density allowed in other zones within the municipality.
2. Review. Prior to adopting an ordinance designating a priority development zone, a municipality shall submit a draft ordinance for review to the Department of Economic and Community Development. Upon receipt of a draft ordinance, the department shall conduct a review to ensure compliance with this section and any applicable rules adopted under subsection 3.
3. Rules. The Department of Economic and Community Development shall adopt rules to administer the requirements of this section. Rules adopted under this subsection must include but are not limited to: (see below- author!)
The State Department of Economic and Community Development has controlling authority over municipal “Priority Zones”, mandated by the State Department of Municipal Ordinances- that’s not an official name just the unofficial name of the practicing policy assigned by yours truly. Thank Erin Cooperrider and crew for their innovative talents in implementing a transference of power when they can’t otherwise get their way by adhering to the constitutional rule of law in the state of Maine.
Despite my criticism, I did enjoy the Artists Talk at the Barn and stopped by the next day to expound upon my idea for a Workers in Residence Priority Zone. I was asked what I wanted from them, for which I had no specific answer at the moment but the next day, going with the flow, I happened upon the Foundation for Intentional Communities.
By another name, priority zones are intentional communities. The Legislature has mandated intentional communities across the entire state for the segment of the workforce that is employed by a business and works in business headquarters. By so doing the Maine Legislature acknowledges that when the Commissioners decided not to include short-term rentals in the study, they made unregulated short-term rentals the defacto default zoning ordinance for the entire State of Maine- almost- by not including the short-term rentals in the study, they also left the regulation of short-term rentals up to local authorities.
It is recognized globally that the short-term rental industry is a vampire industry that destroys other cultures. Recently NYC joined other large cities, in regulating short-term rentals, the real cause of the housing shortage. “Under-production of housing is not the cause of the housing shortage, It is the substitute cause for those who will not address the real cause, which would be the right thing to do for climate change and for human culture. Unless strict energy efficiency regulations and carbon emission limits are required for new structures, the cost of deforestation makes production housing very bad for our environment, especially at the rate that Maine State Inc. wants to cover Maine with production housing, which will go a long way toward obliterating preexisting community character.
What the Maine Legislature did was to create an intentional community zone that would serve its own purposes and the purposes of its private partners, and called it a “Priority Zone” rather than what it actually is- a housing concentration zone, or intentional community - as in intentionally overcrowded community- and I am quoting from the law which says that municipalities cannot make ordinances against overcrowding. Technically the law does not mandate concentrated housing, it merely permits it, but the entire system is coordinated with the state’s private partners- corporate housing developers. Look how fast Erin Cooperrider had the Boothbay Peninsula locked up after she arranged for the law to be enacted that would do away with local ordinances that had been standing in the way of the developer’s agenda for so many years.
Ironically for a development that can only legally exist pursuant to a law that prohibits municipalities from prohibiting “overcrowding”, a term defined by HUD to mean that the point at which close housing density festers disease, the Boothbay selectmen showered the BRDC with ARRP Funding, which came about in response to covid. Then the voters of Boothbay extended the TIFF zone for the concentrated housing zone.
Once the corporation had harvested all the gifts from the local community it moved on to harvest regional gifts.
Earlier this month, Boothbay Region Housing Trust was the first applicant to receive a Lincoln County American Rescue Plan Act grant. County commissioners have set aside $1.5 million in ARPA funds for affordable housing projects. Boothbay Region Housing Trust received a $21,000 grant for its project at 1 Alexander Way in Boothbay Harbor. BRHT has a project under construction for seven modular homes with three bedrooms, two baths and one-car garages. The trust will sell these units to income-qualified applicants for $287,000 each. source
The ”income qualifications’” for “affordable housing ownership” are above the medium income by 20%. By the standards of the Maine Legislature, only 30% of the Maine populous can afford to buy a home that is not builder-subsidized housing. What is wrong with that picture? Of course, the builders are in it for the profit and so with “affordable” defined as “120% or below”, the property owners will target the highest incomes in that bracket so they can make the highest profit, which means the general taxpayer is subsidizing home ownership for those making 120% of the median income, which means most of the subsidized funds are financed by those making a lower income than the people being subsidized and those taxpayers subsidizing home ownership for the 120% of the medium income set can’t afford home ownership. HP 1489 extends the definition of affordable housing qualifications to include people from upper-income brackets so that builders can cash in on the subsidies while making a higher profit. How well will that serve to expand the wealth divide?
B. For owned housing, a development in which a household with an income at 120% 18 of the local area median income can afford a majority of the units without spending 19 more than 30% of the household's monthly income on housing costs. soucre
Meanwhile, the tax-exempt non-profit corporation retains ownership of all the land, including the land occupied by the houses sold to individual owners. Did the Maine Legislature figure it out so that the municipalities that are forced to host State development zones get something in the form of property taxes to pay for all the services the municipality must provide to those living in State housing projects? The last time I took a scan of property tax statutes it was taxed by acreage, not by buildings- but it wasn’t a thorough search.
To be fair, if you have a priority zone or an intentional housing community, you must allow for many variations if fairness includes diversity and prohibits bias. The concepts of diversity and bias also need to be extended so that bias also includes bias against the self-employed, bias against remote workers and bias against businesses in a home, and so forth.
However, the rules for the “priority zone” are these:
A. Criteria to evaluate whether an area has significant potential for housing development;
B. Criteria to evaluate whether an area is located near community resources;
C. Minimum density requirements for an area to qualify as a priority development zone; and
D. Minimum criteria to evaluate whether an ordinance incentivizes the development of multifamily housing within a priority development zone, including but not limited to establishing reduced parking requirements. Rules adopted pursuant to this subsection are routine technical rules as defined in Title 5, chapter 375, subchapter 2-A.
The idea behind these rules is that a priority zone will crowd the workforce into spaces packed as tightly as possible, though the wording “minimum density requirements is very vague. Given these rules, the legislature’s priority zone is clearly meant to be a concentrated housing zone, which is one kind of priority suiting developers of “production housing”, which is not the way most of rural Maine was historically developed, and so while the legislation prohibits the municipalities from saying anything about “community character’ it is because the law is a plan to alter the community character of the entire state, across the state, by the state.
For all kinds of reasons, the intentional community codified in HP 1489 is unsuited to the remote workers movement, businesses in a home, and the self-employed. If Erin Cooperrider and her collaborators can write a law to suit their own industry and have it enacted, then other intentional communities should also be allowed within municipal zoning ordinances. The state says the municipal ordinances cannot prohibit overcrowded density but the municipal ordinances can fairly require other conditions that would justly make overcrowded density impractical, just as the Boothbay selectmen recently did to a solar company by charging an over-the-top permit fee. There are other considerations that can be justly brought to bear, in example, the limitations of our water supply and power transmission lines.
In order to continue as a diverse society, we need to develop alternative intentional communities. If we don’t, cultural diversity will be zoned out of existence in Maine.
Flowing manifests as details and planning!
There is no category on the Foundation for Intentional Communities website that fits my concept of workers in residence housing, serving a popular movement among working people who feel that they are more productive and enjoy a better work-life balance when working from home. Covid made it obvious that it isn’t necessary to work at company headquarters. Knowing this while being forced to do so and spend hours commuting builds resentment toward leadership. Furthermore, cutting back on commuting reduces carbon emissions. Priority zones are supposed to be located close to resources including work, what is a closer distance to work than working from home? But for that one needs more space than concentrated housing zones are willing to dole out to the workforce.
So, we need to create an intentional community for the workers who work in the home or in a space attached to the home. If we create it, we create on the cutting edge of an emerging movement and become leaders. The timing is opportune for it. The other day I saw a conversation on LinkedIn about remote working. Someone said there need to be architects designing for this new need. The movement is growing stronger, but our leaders aren’t heeding it.
Perhaps there is a catchier name than “worker-in-residence” which is an adaptation of “artist-in-residence” which has a proven record in community development. The intentional community that I envision is a throwback to pre-industrial revolution cottage industries, or one could think of it as a society of corporate teams except that the teams are independently owned small businesses, and it targets synergy and collaboration rather than centralization. Or since the state is reinventing public education as workforce training, a workers-in-residence zone is also an educational zone where independent creators can develop ideas free of intellectual property vultures looking over their shoulders. A business in or attached to a home can make homeownership more affordable, isn’t that how short-term rentals were justified before they became “self-service hotels”? Short-term rentals drive other kinds of culture out creating the need for a society made up of intentional communities- so no short-term rental businesses in a home in the intentional community- they are the default zone of the entire state of Maine.
A Museum that functions as a fiscal sponsor for the cause can function as a networking and meeting place and make non-profit funding sources accessible to the community, as The Field is doing for my cause: Make a tax-deductible donation to support my continually evolving projects.
A workers-in-residence” intentional community is a “community that works together” literally speaking. Small business collaborators can ground the visualization in actuality.
Right now, the task at hand is relatively simple, that of writing a submission for the the Foundation for Intentional Communities. There are likely to be a lot of political hoops to jump through to bring the concept into reality but that comes later.
The guidelines for a submission to the database require a group of four adults so I need to find three more adults who will collaborate on a project of writing such a submission for the database. I think four is a very nice group size but if the project should generate a larger group, then great!
I would love to find three other adults to work with on writing up a submission for a workers-in-residence intentional community for the Foundation for Intentional Communities database. The website has many other resources and how-to guidance.
My background growing up in a business in a home and the productivity assets that Andersen Design can bring to the picture that can support multiple other businesses in or attached to the home qualify me to be part of such a team.
I will be working on a Facebook Page with a Google form. In the meantime, please comment in the comments if you have an interest.