Asheville Eco-Drama: How Would You Create an Eco- Village on 52 acres?

Real Estate Agent with Eco-Steward Realty

Asheville Eco Village LandAsheville Eco Village Land

My last two blogs were about a seller of 52 acreshere in the Asheville real estate trying to sustainably develop his property without having to sell to a buyer who wants to do a traditional development of singe family homes with 4 homes on an acre lot. Bill, the owner has created several different options of how the land might be used as a green development, but as I indicated my boss Janeanne and I did present him with one other option and that was to create an Eco-Village or Conservation Subdivision on his property. Bill has studied these type of development concepts over the years but  is somewhat hesitant to create an Ecovillage plan because there are so many potential variations of this design that someone would like. His initial strategy is to let potential investors decide what they would like - the blank slate approach. I told him that investors would like to see what is being proposed, the vision of a community and then decide if that is place for them.

We would include the core concepts of an Ecovillage (from the Wikipedia definition) some of which are

The goal of most ecovillages is to be a sustainable habitat providing for most of its needs on site. Its organization also usually depends upon some instructional capital or moral codes - a minimal civics sometimes characterized as eco-anarchism:

a choice to respect diversity

Some examples of current eco developments around the country include: Sawyer Hill, Berlin Ma  , Ecovillage at Ithaca, NY, the Columbia EcoVillage, Portland ,Oregon. Feel free to post any other others that are your favorites.

Given all the above, Bill already is assuming that there would be a large area for organic gardens and an area for small farm animals ( i.e. chickens, goats, alpacas ,etc). as well as the ability for residents to have horses. 

So there are a wide variety of EcoVillage designs and concepts floating around out there, what  would your top 3 design features be for such a development were one to be built in your area?

I offered my top 3 choices to Bill that I would like to see in his Asheville Eco Village:

  1. Having some or all of the green homes equipped with green roofs. A fair amount of gardening can take place on these and they also help offset the impervious  footprint of roads and home foundations. Green roofs also cut heating and cooling costs.
  2. Doing a major solar energy concept plan that could provide a sizable amount of energy for the entire community. There are many new and effective solar technologies   on the market from solar roof shingles to the solar film technology. Being able to say that the community is getting a lot of energy off grid will also be a great selling feature. You can look at individual unit features and upgrades to solar collector panels for each knoll. I know this may add to costs, but it is something I think needs to be looked at now in this stage of your thinking.
  3. Installing or having available as an upgrade a grey water system  to recycle water used in the house for irrigation purposes. (there are other variations as well). I have a  client who is installing the first such system in his Asheville home and the inspectors have approved it, although admitting they know little about it. The plumber putting it in is training the permitting inspectors on it. With water issues being what they are with the drought, this will be seen as a really important green feature.  

So what three great features would you put in such a development? I will pass everything on to Bill for his consideration. In the meantime here are the particulars and a update on Bills 52 acres: 

Comments (13)



THIS is one of the most educational  posts I have seen this year! It is so full of excellent information all wrapped into an amazing story. Thank you so much for all the links and your energy and photos.I have  bookmarked this post, and have written Bob a note to ask him to Feature it.

Feb 19, 2008 12:10 AM
Mary McGraw
GLREA - Rockford, MI
2015: Solar Energy Is Still A Simple Machine!

HI Bill - I am in agreement with JaneAnne. This is a very informative post with excellent links that I will bookmark! No sense reinventing the wheel or searching for information that has already been sought! I must say I agree with all three features you mentioned. I have more questions before I can pick "3" features!

What type of climate do you have in NC - how many winter months with brrrr...cold? how many summer months with hot sweltering weather when AC is a necessity? What is your average wind speed in the area? It looks like the site sits high above where good winds would prevail! How about tree lines? It looks like your sites may be above a ravine of sorts that would drive wind about.

Obviously, no public utilities yet...or am I wrong? Are there utilities close by? Are there transportation lines nearby or transportation lines that could be extended?

You speak of gardening? How are the soils for gardening and are there areas that could be easily cleared? Is there wildlife in those areas that would be disrupted by the clearing?

You speak of gray water - I like that concept. Is there water on the property - ponds, streams, etc? Any natural wetlands?

Tell me more Bill, before I have to choose 3 features. You have raised many questions about the potential for the property in my mind!!!

As always, an excellent post that begs input from many around the country! Bob should feature it!!!


Feb 19, 2008 01:23 PM
Gabe Swinney Asheville New Urbanism
Gabe Swinney - Asheville, NC


what an exciting project, sounds like staggering potential! 

Feb 21, 2008 04:34 AM
Bill Westel
Eco-Steward Realty - Asheville, NC

Hi Mary:

Here is some more information. There are two streams crisscrossing the property  Water and sewer are also right at the property line. The land here is somewhat cleared already so organic gardening would be relatively easy. There is professional organic gardener available that would most likely live in the eco village as well. As far as climate, we experience all four seasons here in Asheville with average highs in the 40's in January with avearge lows around the high 20's. Average snowfall is around 14 inches, but much less the last several years. Last frost is usually April 30th with first frost Mid -October although we have been running a little warmer the last couple of years as well.

Here is as short summary of the seasons (from

This season can bring wildly varying weather--anything from snow, to heat waves in the 90's, but it's usually mild and fairly wet. It's also very scenic as the new leaves and wildflowers advance higher and higher in elevation.

Temperatures in the mountain valleys are typically in the mid 80's, only occasionally reaching 90 or above, and scattered afternoon thunderstorms are likely. The cool forests, cold streams, and high mountain elevations offer reprise from the heat on rare occasions when it gets too hot to hike in the valleys. This is a wet season, and when cold fronts do move through, widespread heavy rain can occur, and influence from tropical systems - heavy rain and wind - is possible mainly toward late summer. Beware of nagging insects during summer.

This season offers spectacular leaf displays, cooler temperatures (60's and 70's), clear, dry, crisp air, and great weather for hiking. This is, on average, the driest season. Early fall brings the possibility of tropical systems with rain and wind. The best fall colors are from late September on the highest peaks to late October or early November in the valleys.

You will experience occasional snow during this wet season, with average highs in the 40's and 50's; however extreme cold and snow is not at all uncommon, as are days that are sunny and 60 degrees. The snow generally melts quickly, though it may stay around for a month or more at higher elevations. Trails may be icy and high-elevation wet trails may require crampons or avoidance due to large slabs of ice.

In regards to wind power I am not sure that would be a viable alternative since the property sits in a little valley fronting up to the north side of a mountain where the owner lives.

Does this help you out a bit? 



Feb 22, 2008 05:56 AM
Georgie Hunter R(S) 58089
Hawai'i Life Real Estate Brokers - Haiku, HI
Maui Real Estate sales and lifestyle info
Bill it sounds like an incredible idea - I hope your friend will do it!  We need more developments like this.  Could there be room for some light commercial activities?
Feb 25, 2008 01:07 PM
Mary McGraw
GLREA - Rockford, MI
2015: Solar Energy Is Still A Simple Machine!

Hi Bill! Yes! you have done a tremendous job answering my questions! Inquiring minds always want to know!!! I really like the idea of an ECO Village and would agree that most developers would like to see a master plan of sorts in place before investing in the project. Because I have the ECO AllStars and read them daily (well, usually anyway!) I forget that some of these ideas are foreign to many people. Foreign yet appealing...being able to visualize the concepts is key for buying into the ideas. Thank you for this challenge!  This will be a fun project for me to think about over the next few days...

and then I will post again!!! 

Feb 25, 2008 02:19 PM
Alex Mordas
EarthSTEPS - Tallahassee, FL
Green Building Consultant



It is great that you guys are actively working on these things in Asheville. Please feel free to contact me if you ever need anything in the Tallahassee, FL area. 

Feb 25, 2008 02:56 PM
Bill Westel
Eco-Steward Realty - Asheville, NC


As it happens there is some potential commercial property about 12 acres that the seller owns that is about half a mile a away from the land.

Feb 26, 2008 05:07 AM
Bill Westel
Eco-Steward Realty - Asheville, NC

Hi Mary:

I definitely agree with you about getting your sustainable community concept down before trying to get investors. But on the other hand when you look at some of the other eco-villages around the country it seems that many had a group of local people with similar visions come together and figure out how they wanted to build their community. This obviously becomes a much more complicated exercise to do with people who are currently living in different places around the country who all would like to live in a eco-village or conservation subdivision in the Asheville area. I understand why the seller would allow the investors to decide how the community was shaped, but I just think its very tough to do long distance.

Look forward to seeing your eco-village features!  

Feb 26, 2008 05:17 AM
Mary McGraw
GLREA - Rockford, MI
2015: Solar Energy Is Still A Simple Machine!

Hi Bill,

You pose a very tough question in your blog when you ask for top 3 features of an ECO-Village. I have a difficult time prioritizing and listing just 3 because so many features tend to intertwine in my mind. I have taken your project on in my mind as if I were the investor, the builder and the homeowner.

When you say ECO-Village, I think not about the features in Mary's home. Mary's home will only be a small portion of the Village itself. What I think about are the ways in which the village will be laid out. The village will need to be built around the natural features and weather of NC.

1. Mary would subdivide the land so that each home built would easily take advantage of PASSIVE Solar with minimal impact to the environment. As you say, "The land here is somewhat cleared already." My plans would include minimizing land clearing and utilizing trees for passive solar. I would also have a way to recycle any trees that need to be removed from the properties. This plan would possibly include an on-site sawmill to mill trees and/or an on-site mulcher to return scraps to the earth. Possibly pathways or mulch for landscaping.

2. Mary would design the VILLAGE so that permeable pavement is used not only in driveways leading to the homes but also in the roads within the village. Although I am not schooled in the cost of application I think this would lend well to the water conservation Bill speaks of. Water conservation would also be practiced within individual homesites but it just makes sense that the ECO development also do their share with development of infrastructure.

3. Mary would like to see transportation be addressed in the ECO Village. I would like to see this Village incorporate Mixed Use/Retail. If not, access to public transportation and/or pedal and foot power would be very important. Following my trip to Victoria, BC for BMX races last year Mary was initiated to the idea of the ease of taking advantage of public transportation. Mary and her daughter Alicia actually enjoyed the bus rides!

This is just a beginning...Mary can't limit to 3 features!!! I would also include public green space, community gardens, possibly amenities like tennis courts, a fitness center, community house, etc Being careful with restrictive covenents is also important. So many condo developments restrict, for instance, clotheslines. Just silly. Clotheslines can be tactfully done and there is nothing like sleeping in sheets fresh off the line!

Bill, keep Mary and the other ECO AllStars up to date in the happenings. Give me a call sometime! I am very interested in how this project develops!


Feb 27, 2008 11:34 AM
Dick Betts
REALTOR® The Villages, Florida
I hope you come to the Sheraton Four Points Hotel in Asheville on Tuesday for a full day of Technology.  We have a great day lined up featuring two National Speakers Jerry Rossi and Dick Betts.  For more info go to my blog
Mar 09, 2008 04:12 AM
Ann-Marie Clements
Candidate for an Ed.D. in Educational Leadership - Saint John, NB
Ed.D. candidate, Innovative Proactive Principa

Hi Bill,

We have an Eco Village in the French area of Dippe, New Brunswick (community out of Moncton, New Brunswick).  Here's the site for your viewing:  "", they have a 5 year plan for building an environmental community.  ;>)

Sep 01, 2008 07:12 AM
Rhodes Waite
Asheville, NC

Great ideas Bill, and great information too. Thank you!  There is a wonderful ecovillage here outside of Asheville (in Black Mountain actually) called Earthaven.  I think the only idea I would add would be to talk to existing local "ecovillagers" and see what input they have on this land.

Sep 08, 2008 04:00 AM