Saturday, October 10, 2009

Land Sharing Ideas

My brother, Martin, owns land right next to mine. In fact it was my first visit to his property that encouraged me to buy the vacant land next to his – even though it wasn’t going to be possible to move out for 5 years after the purchase. Now he’s looking to setup some kind of land sharing deal with other like minded people who like living off grid.

Here’s the first segment in his ongoing story. It’s an interesting read and some parts are intertwined with my efforts to plan ahead… And my property is also part of a legal coop – Toquenatch Creek Co-op in BC.

If interested please leave a comment that I can forward on to him. He's looking for suggestions and ideas, as well as interest. . .

End of Inlet when tide is out

8 Acres on Okeover Inlet - Sunshine Coast, north of Powell River, BC

This is an information sheet to give you a better idea of what is being offered, and how I hope that the land and its owners might be able to cooperate and enjoy a good life.

The Goal:

To enable a small group of people (2-4 individual/couples/families) to affordably co-own this piece of waterfront property, with the intention of living in a cooperative manner that is environmentally, socially, and politically healthy, creative, responsible and sustainable.

Within that vague statement, I believe that there is a wide latitude for individual paths and lifestyles – from “back-to-the-land”, hunting, gardening, and foraging, to a more modern use of highly-efficient technologies and sustainable energy production.


My partner Tova and I have lived here for since 2005. We have both spent many years traveling, sailing, and working in a variety of fields – from carpentry and construction, sailboat repair and deliveries, work on research ships, and geology – to writing and photography projects and other academic studies. At present we spread our time between casual work in a number of areas, online courses, and work and gardening on the property, as well as boating and hiking in the area.


Okeover Inlet is north of Powell River on the Sunshine Coast of British Columbia.

The drive from town center takes about 20 minutes along Highway 101, followed by 5-10 minutes down a bumpy road. The property is at the end of the long inlet, across from a salmon-bearing creek, so that during autumn and early winter, the water churns with salmon, while eagles and black bears come to feast.

The wider surroundings include easy access to Desolation Sound and other ocean inlets (Toba and Butte Inlet amongst others). The more immediate area includes a great mix of “neighbours” (in a more wide-spread sense of the term), including artists, musicians, builders, gardeners – a good community of people who get together for joint projects such as apple-pressing, shared meals, and currently even a natural home-building effort.

The Property:

The eight acres has a mix of conditions – a long rock and sand ridge; a small fern wetland area; a home site clearing with our simple house, and some established apple, plum and cherry trees; a garden area surrounded by grapes and blackberries; a mix of forest throughout with mature Douglas Fir, cedar, maple and other trees; and a hillside at the far back of the property that stretches upward to the Sunshine Coast Trail.

The soil is a mix of sandy areas, with clay zones, deep black wetland soil, and large jumbled rocks on the hillside that might be used for future building. There appears to have plenty of available water on the property even during the driest summers.

The property is an off-grid location with the nearest power lines approximately 1-2 kms away across Crown and private land. We presently use solar in the summer (a single 130 W panel has been supplying all of our basic summer home needs (lights, laptops, music, blender, etc), but we’ll likely expand that in the future. We’ve experimented successfully with a solar-oven this year. We use a propane fridge in the summer, and the stove also uses propane. We heat and do a lot of winter cooking on the wood stove.

During the winter we try to use modest amounts of electricity and charge the battery bank using a small gas generator. However, we are presently a year into an application process for a microhydro project which would give us a relatively abundant supply of electric power during about 6 months of the year (approx 6-12+ kw/day to be shared by property residents). While this is not yet secured, I am optimistic about our chance of approval based on the government and First Nations cooperation up to this point. The microhydro would compliment the summer solar season.

The General Plan:

On all of these following thoughts and ideas, I am open to suggestions as to how to make this project work with all of those who eventually co-own the property.

My starting framework proposal is to establish the number of home site locations that will be sharing the property – depending largely on the vision of the co-owners, and the amount that each member is willing to spend for their share. (i.e.: each share would be less expensive with the property divided amongst a larger number of people, but there would be less land and trees between each dwelling)

I believe that a maximum of 4 modest home sites could exist happily on the space, surrounded by orchards, gardens and forestland. As well, the work and expenses divided amongst four groups would be lighter than with a smaller group. That said, the lower density of having only two or three groups could also be wonderful, and still quite affordable for some.

Our home is already situated on the property, but the remaining home site locations would be decided by the group so that all would be satisfied with the final space/privacy issues. I suggest that rather than drawing a great number of dividing lines and individual parcels, that the home sites should be established by the group, but the remaining area would be considered “commons”, with its use for fruit, gardens, workshop etc. to be shared by the entire group. In this way, the best garden location, shoreline, orchard areas, etc. can be chosen for those uses without excluding access to one group or the other.

We would need to draw up some form of agreed (coop) land-use guidelines or constitution, with a consensus necessary to make decisions and changes that would affect the common space.

These types of relationships aren’t always easy, but this area has a number of very successful examples that we can draw on. As well, I am pursuing this means of selling shares in the property rather than applying to legally subdivide because of a desire to co-exist and cooperate with whoever my neighbors will be.


These numbers are still tentative, but I think that they will be close to the final, after the appraisal and last discussions with my land partner.

I will arrange for an appraisal of the land, but I believe that it will come in somewhere around $450,000 (CAN). The land partner who purchased this property with me has decided that he will not be able to continue. Because of the nature of this cooperative plan, he has agreed to let me sell his part at below market value – as long as he can recoup his original investment. With that in mind, I believe that he would receive what is necessary if we divided the property and land shares based on a $400,000 (CAN) total. At that level, ¼ would cost 100,000; 1/3 would cost 133,000; and ½ would cost 200,000. (Again, these numbers may be adjusted slightly, but I think that they are reasonably accurate).
The immediate additional costs that would likely have to be shared by the entire group would be (a) legal fees to establish the coop or other land share entity of our choice. (b) The cost of moving the existing driveway access out from the waterfront area, so allow for building and fruit trees, etc in that area (this might not be necessary with only two home sites). And (c) labour and poly pipe, etc. to bring the water for the microhydro – only if/when this project is approved by all government levels. I am hopeful that approval will be granted this winter. However, the actual work and construction timing would have to be agreed upon by the group.

My final thought concerning the cost of property shares is that I hope to discourage any speculative investors. As much as is possible, we would like to build a sense of community rather than a group of real estate investors. By offering to sell at below-market value, I would like to include, in the group constitution, an agreement that no re-sell profit can be made for the first few years (3-5?) so that if any individual decides that this is not the right location or situation for them, then the remaining members would be able to consider buying back the available share at a reasonable rate rather than at inflated market values. However, I would not want anyone to have to sell at a loss.

After that initial time period, I would like to still have some mechanism in place to allow the remaining property owners to have first option to buy-back at a below-market price, and to have some input in the member selection process. A number of the local land coops have this sort of agreement that we can consider as a model.

I think that this would be a benefit for all members who truly want to keep their share over a long period of time. Again, I am open for suggestions in this regard.

This is a first draft, but I hope that it offers some clarity to the property and the plan for its future. If you are still interested after all of these thoughts, please keep in touch, and feel free to contact me with any questions or thoughts on the project.

Martin Mitchinson


  1. I believe he already has found one partner last year and doesn't want to add another one at this time.


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