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Bloomington’s Ecovillage Raises Hopes And Concerns

Daniel Weddle and other members of Dandelion Village sit and talk about their future plans for the property after a day of clearing trees for future construction.

This is the second in a three-part series on cooperative living in Bloomington, Ind.

Dandelion Village recently received city approval to rezone land for a cooperative village and is scheduled to begin construction later this year. The village would house individuals and possibly even families who want to live together in a cooperative setting. Members all contribute their time and money to pay for food, transportation, housing and general upkeep of the land.

The Dandelion Village is still vacant land. But in about a year, the two-acre tract will house a small village with a few houses, a barn, an orchard, and a garden – all on a piece of land about the size of a large backyard.

Co-op organizer Danny Weddle and other members work each weekend to clear ground on the property on the west side of Bloomington.

The eco-village, as it has come to be known, is Weddle’s brainchild. He says it has been part of his dream to get away from the consumer society and immerse himself in something more sustainable.

“One of my goals is how do you make shoes for a community of 30 in 8 hours,” he says. “So those are the sorts of things that roll around in my brain. How do we reclaim mid-level production? And the technology is there to do it. We just need the people to come together.”

The village will not be completely self-sustaining though. Weddle says he understands it is nearly impossible to make everything you need to live on, and shoe production is just one example.

“It’s so hard to make your own shoes, your own cell phone,” he says. “This land is enough to grow vegetables for about 7 people-ish.”

The group also plans to have chickens and is looking into the possibility of other livestock.

“I am concerned about noise from construction, from people gatherings and from the farm animals, including big chickens and the goats or whatever they manage to get through the city,” says Deneise Self, whose home is adjacent to the property.

Self has been an outspoken critic of the ecovillage and on numerous occasions has appealed to the city’s planning department to closely monitor the group’s plans.

In addition to Self other neighbors have raised concerns about the impact of water runoff, parking on the area’s narrow streets and an increased number of bicyclists. Bloomington Planning Director Tom Micuda says the city has been working closely with Weddle to make sure the ecovillage members don’t have a negative impact on the community.

“Danny Weddle’s group Cooperative Plots have really bent over backward to answer questions that came up with our boards and commissions and also the neighbors,” Micuda says.

But he says many questions still need to be addressed because the Bloomington zoning code does not have established rules for ecovillages or cooperative living. He says zoning exceptions for these types of situations have become more frequent and the city will soon have to rewrite its code to include that type of housing. How that code is rewritten will be determined by what happens with Cooperative Plots.

“Will it be a model project and a demonstration project both locally and nationally for a great housing coop in an ecovillage format?” Micuda says. “And if it is it will build a lot more momentum. If for some reason there are problems in implementation, that will be a lesson learned we have to think about.”

Weddle says he sees the ecovillage prospering for a long time. Unlike other cooperative living situations comprised mostly of single adults, Weddle says Dandelion Village should be a place where he and other members can establish a home and a family.

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