Living close to the land in teepees has a certain appeal to those caught up in the complexities of modern existence. A community of people has managed to live that way for nearly six years on private land near Soda Mountain southeast of Ashland. But maintaining that simple existence much longer will be complicated.
The residents of Tipi Village had an agreement with the owners of the land they live on to pay the property taxes in exchange for permission to remain. But the owners have put the land up for sale.
The Tipi Village community is trying to raise more than $300,000 to purchase the property by Oct. 1 — a daunting task. A website where donations are collected listed a total of $1,000 raised as of Wednesday.
To further complicate the situation, county planning authorities say the dwellings are illegal under land-use laws unless the site is declared a campground. Tents are allowed under county code on developed land where sewer and water services are assumed to be present. But on undeveloped land, such as the property the teepee dwellers occupy, campground status can be obtained only with a conditional use permit, which requires notice to nearby property owners and a public comment period.
In a video on the fundraising website, www.indiegogo.com/projects/land-liberation-project, Tipi Village residents speak of "liberating" the land by purchasing it. It's unclear why the land needs "liberating" except to provide the village residents with a place to live.
Land development rules exist to protect the public from uses that might damage resources such as water, wildlife and air quality and to protect the rights of neighboring landowners to enjoy their own property without undue disturbance or intrusion.
It does not appear the Tipi Village residents have encroached on any neighboring properties, and they apparently use a portable toilet to avoid polluting the property they live on. They do draw water from a stream on the property, which might pose a threat to water quality downstream, but that has not emerged as an issue.
It may be that the group members can succeed in getting the campground designation. But that won't do them much good if the property is sold and the new owners tell them to leave. Tipi Village residents are learning the hard way that, unless they hold the deed, living close to the land is anything but simple.