Kickstarting a “Narrow Streets” Community in Rural Maine

It’s one version of an urbanist’s dream: a 125-acre sanctuary where walking and biking are the primary mode of transportation; a community of narrow streets where cars don’t intrude.

Piscataquis Village in Maine would emulate the urban style of a traditional village. Photo: ##https://docs.google.com/present/view?id=dfxsxhdw_251f75rgsg4&pli=1## Piscataquis Village Project##

Well, one man is seeking to make that vision a reality rural Maine. Tracy Gayton, a former Maine banker, has given his vision the title Piscataquis Village, and built a design philosophy around the insights of Nathan Lewis at New World Economics and J.H. Crawford at Carfree.com. Gayton is recruiting individual investors, in a Kickstarter-like model, to raise $2 million — the amount he estimates is needed to clear regulatory hurdles and buy 500 acres in Maine’s Piscataquis County. (Of that land, 375 acres will be for agriculture, parks and car parking outside village lines, so residents will still be availing themselves of the auto.)

Emily Washington at Network blog Market Urbanism points out that this type of development, unfortunately, might not even be possible in a more developed environment thanks to inflexible zoning codes that protect the primacy of cars:

To me, this case illustrates the effectiveness that covenants have for shaping land use over an area broader than individual lots without the coercion of zoning.

Tracy has created a presentation on the preliminary objectives for Piscataquis Village. He writes: “We envision a settlement evolving organically and growing incrementally. Those people or groups of people that wish to pursue their own, various versions of the Good Life within the bounds of the Village are welcome.”

This project reminds me a bit of seasteading, the libertarian vision of a bottom-up society living on a water vessel to escape government coercion and violence. While I believe that most of the initial Piscataquis Village investors are from Maine and wish to continue living there, the projects’ rural location draws attention to the impossibility of a similar village emerging in the open space of, say, Howard County or Loudoun County because the realities of the political planning process would make it impossible to escape street width, parking, and setback requirements.

Elsewhere on the Network today: Charlottesville Tomorrow reports that a Virginia Supreme Court ruling has handcuffed the state’s planning commissions. World Streets says the transportation reform movement should adopt the “slow” mantra that has revolutionized thinking about food choices. And Stop and Move explores how the lack of resources and public input can lead to mediocre planning results.

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG

Parking Madness 2015: Tampa vs. Waterville, Maine

|
So far in round one of this year’s Parking Madness tourney, the parking crater in downtown Newport News, Virginia, knocked off the surface parking right by L.A.’s North Hollywood metro station, and the parking-scarred waterfront of Camden, New Jersey, beat out downtown Mobile and its carpet of parking lots. Today’s matchup pits sunny Tampa, Florida, […]

A 12-Block Shared Space Neighborhood Rises Along the Potomac

|
Earlier this month, Streetsblog went on a streak about “shared space” — the idea that some streets can work better when, instead of using curbs and traffic signals to separate users, pedestrians get priority using subtle but effective visual cues. We interviewed a key shared space messenger, Ben Hamilton-Baillie; we showed off built examples in Pittsburgh and Batavia, Illinois; and we […]

Five Key Lessons From Europe’s Vision Zero Success

|
Cross-posted from the Vision Zero Network From the moment that Vision Zero began capturing attention in American cities, we’ve heard many admiring references to its success in Europe, particularly in its birthplace of Sweden. I’m fortunate to have the opportunity to research those experiences and their lessons for the growing number of American communities working […]

Study: Walkable Infill Development a Goldmine for City Governments

|
A study out of Nashville by Smart Growth America provides more evidence that building walkable development in existing communities is best for a city’s bottom line. SGA recently examined three different developments in the Music City. One was a large-lot, traditional suburban-style development called Bradford Hills built on greenfield site. Another was a “new urban”-style, mixed-use, walkable development […]