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Happy Birthday, Caspar Center
Happy Birthday, Caspar Center
On Sunday, March 9th, at 3pm, Caspar will celebrate the first anniversary of its Community Center with a potluck feast, a community photo, and, of course, a serious meeting to discuss difficult subjects.
"It's hard to believe that a year has gone by!" says Mike Dell'Ara, the president of the Caspar Community board. "We celebrate the community's acquisition of the Center, the help granted by the USDA, and the wonderfully generous donation from Caspar residents Jerry and Susan Juhl." Dell'Ara noted that a major construction project was begun two weeks ago designed to give the Center a proper foundation, new decks, an adequate septic system, and ADA access. Caspar residents Dan Dickson and John Wozniak are in charge of the project.
In addition to celebration, Caspar residents will be considering two pieces of important business: proposals for realignment of property ownership and development rights in the center of their town. Two of the Community Center's neighbors have asked the Center's board for a boundary line adjustment that will give them a little more room than their small lots presently allow. The price they propose to pay would help put a new solar roof on the Center, which suffered during this winter's storms. And the Caspar Cattle Company hopes to trade the land being considered by the community for a village square for support for a density transfer that would relocate some of the development rights lost when the Caspar Headlands and Beach became a State Park.
Caspar resident Michael Potts, a board member of the Caspar Community organization, explains that before the Caspar beach and headlands were taken into public hands, they were zoned for development of as many as nine large dwellings and up to seven two story commercial structures on the ocean side of Caspar Road. Coastal residents worked hard to keep the headlands open and make them available to the public. "But we never lost sight of the fact that Caspar needs a few more folks, some services, and some job opportunities to be a viable village. We didn't oppose development, just where it was supposed to go." Potts describes the proposed density transfer as a win for all parties. "The community gets a village square, and a little bit more population close to the center of town, but sized and sited more sensitively. Along with the transfer, we have a chance to make sure the development is in harmony with existing Caspar buildings."
The plan the board is asking the community to consider would allow for commercial development on Caspar Street southeast of the Community Center.
Other Caspar residents express a similar vision and willingness to recover the building sites. "This is the next step in our hundred year plan," according to Meridian Green, another Caspar board member. "To me it seems that having a vibrant village requires a little more body heat than we have. It's also important to me to keep the open space and pastoral feel of Caspar. I think the density transfer serves this purpose. Now all we need to do is figure out how the new houses can be kept affordable and the new businesses be resident-serving."
Board member Judy Tarbell has specific ideas she'd like to have considered. "I visualize commercial buildings with residences above and parking that can serve the businesses during business hours and the Caspar Inn and Community Center evenings and weekends." Tarbell further suggested that the residences, half of which would be affordable housing, might well be clustered and share services, and be tucked in to safe areas for families.
Potts notes that wise communities around the world are trying to achieve just such results, but warns that this meeting is only the first step in a process that has brought other communities to their knees. "We have to work another miracle. On Sunday, March 9th, to have a voice and an affect on the future of Caspar, we need you to join us at the Caspar Community Meeting, where we can speak our minds, and listen with special attention to diverse opinions. Out of this deliberation I am confident will grow a workable solution that gives us all what we need."
written by Jerry Juhl and Michael Potts for the Mendocino Beacon, 6 March 2003
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