A living laboratory for a sustainable human future.

Bellavia Gardens (among other neighborhoods) is Becoming a Co-op!

by Arjuna da Silva

Some Earthaven neighborhoods are balancing collective and personal ownership issues by forming housing cooperatives. While used in other parts of the country, housing co-ops are new in our region and could be a reasonable model for other ecovillages, especially in rural areas.

One of the last neighborhood “pods” to get involved in the land-ownership revision, folks at Bellavia Gardens finally took a look at the details and dimensions of this “restructuring” process, which Council has been working on for several years. Here’s what we learned.

Entrance to Bellavia Circle in the lush heart of summer.

After restructuring, our Homeowners Association (HOA), of which our neighborhood “pods” will all be members, will continue to own most of our land for us, meaning the forest all around, the Commons, and much of the agricultural areas. But instead of bearing the burdens of caring for residential parcels, the HOA will pass the baton of “ownership” and responsibility to residential pods incorporated in a couple of formats.

Two neighborhoods have decided to pursue becoming religious societies, finding those more aligned than housing co-ops with their values and needs. Bellavia Gardens will have just enough Full Earthaven Members (five) to comply with the requirements for cooperative associations in North Carolina. Other neighborhoods with fewer members are joining together to start their co-ops and may branch off in the future.

left: Medicine Wheel Collective will become a religious society.

Not everyone has been excited about these changes (putting our NVC education into intensive practice!). In addition to slowpokes like the Bellavians, other challenges to accomplishing restructuring included determining which agreements would have to be amended and which can remain the same. Our commitments and understandings regarding residing on, sharing and co-owning Earthaven land have had a searchlight review and updating in preparation for becoming a federation of neighborhoods.

Earthaven Association comprehensive site map before restructuring

Much intensive and dedicated work was accomplished by Council’s Strategic Transition Group (STG), which Kimchi Rylander organized and nurtured these last few years, and which has guided the process to its maturity. Hats off also to Patricia Allison, Bob Lienhart, Debbie Lienhart, Martha Harris, Sue and Geoff Stone, Alice Henry, Norm Self, Carmen Lescher, and with a great bow to Dimitrios Magiasis, who kept interpreting for the rest of us what was happening in conversations between legal counsel and the STG team!

All in all, what has been a laborious and sometimes bewildering process has created a new way of organizing ourselves that we think will be more appropriate and supportive of our similar but also distinct neighborhood personalities.

      Visitors Map showing some Earthaven neighborhoods.


Stay tuned for updated information here and on our website about ways to continue to connect with us, including visiting and tours, work exchange and other short-term residency options, educational and economic opportunities, and membership exploration. To twist the African Ubuntu saying just a little bit: “we are because YOU are!


Arjuna da Silva helped found Earthaven in 1994 and is a member of Bellavia Gardens Neighborhood. 

Arjuna da Silva, bellavia, map, Medicine Wheel, NVC, pods, restructuring, STG

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