Originally created 09/01/02

Artists work to create plan for subdivision



ATHENS, Ga. - An unlikely group of developers, including several local artists and musicians, has bought 155 acres in northern Athens-Clarke County, aiming to turn it into an environmentally friendly subdivision.

Plans for the "Orange Twin Conservation Community" are still being developed. The first house is yet to be built, and they haven't even begun to go through Athens-Clarke County's planning and zoning process and the other legal hoops they'll have to jump through before Orange Twin becomes real.

But to date, 21 people have bought into the project, which is planned for land off Noketchee Creek Road, near where the Clarke, Jackson and Madison county borders intersect.

The group's legal papers call for selling up to 62 shares in the community, but "we're going to sell as few as possible," said Laura Carter, a member of the Athens band Elf Power and one of Orange Twin's organizers.

Among those involved in the project already are musicians John D'Azzo of the Gerbils, John Fernandez of Circulatory System, Heather McIntosh of Japancakes and the Instruments, and artists Art and Margo Rosenbaum.

THE FORESTED SITE, once a Girl Scout camp, boasts natural springs, two creeks and wetlands, said Ms. Carter, 32. She and several other people bought the acreage hours after it hit the market two years ago.

The group plans to put a conservation easement on at least 100 acres of the property and cluster up to 60 homes in about 15 acres.

In a conservation easement, landowners agree to limitations on their legal rights to develop property, and in return they can get a reduction in property tax rates.

But it won't be any ordinary suburban conservation subdivision, Ms. Carter explained Wednesday as she gave a tour of the site. Nearby, a couple of friends installed flooring into what was once an open-air pavilion - destined shortly to be a grandstand for a fund-raising benefit the Orange Twin Group plans for the site Sept. 21 and 22.

It may be the country's only conservation subdivision with its own record label - Orange Twin Records, which sells the music of groups such as Neutral Milk Hotel, Elf Power, Great Lakes, Lovers and the Good Ship on its Web site, www.orangetwin.com.

THE RESIDENTIAL AREA will be designed to be pedestrian- and mother-friendly and to promote a sense of community, Ms. Carter said. Features will include shared play areas and a community building with guest rooms, laundry facilities and a place to watch movies.

One of the earliest projects was building a small recreational swimming area on a spring-fed stream on the property.

Plans also include an organic community garden of five to 10 acres.

Right now, Orange Twin is legally a land-owning partnership. The final legal structure is yet to be determined by the group, which makes decisions by consensus, Ms. Carter said. New members must be voted in by the previous members, after the new folks have participated in some of the ongoing group projects, such as fixing up the old pavilion.

They are leaning toward forming a community land trust, a nonprofit corporation that would own the land, selling 100-year leases to people and families who want to build homes there.