WHO WE ARE
Sustainable Community Partners (SCP) is a corporation formed specifically to develop a one of a kind sustainability-themed planned community in the downeast section of Maine. Many members of the leadership team, and all of the partners and backers of the corporation, will be members of the community.
Randall E. Solomon
Founder & Partner
Randall Solomon is Merriwood's founder, motivated by a long time dream of creating a sustainable and self-sufficient community. Mr. Solomon is an expert in sustainability, land use and redevelopment policy with 20 years of experience working at the highest levels of government, academia, and the nonprofit sector. Mr. Solomon has been a land policy researcher, redevelopment agency officer, and founder of Sustainable Jersey, a highly successful non-profit corporation focused on local sustainable development that services 450 cities and towns that has been emulated in 12 states.
In addition to his role leading the non-profit Sustainable Jersey, managing a staff of 20 and fundraising an annual 2.5 million dollar operating budget, Mr. Solomon’s experience includes positions as a policy advisor on smart growth for the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities integrating land use and energy policy, director of the States Campaign for the Resource Renewal Institute in San Francisco, and smart growth policy director for the non-profit New Jersey Future. He has participated on advisory boards for Federal and State government, and has advised major corporations. Mr. Solomon holds an M.S. in Public Policy and Planning from Rutgers University.
Mr. Solomon’s work has received numerous awards including:
Distinguished Public Service Award from The New Jersey League of Municipalities
Outstanding Achievement in Sustainability Award from the American Planning Association
Joint Resolution of Thanks and Congratulations for Leadership from the New Jersey State Legislature (twice)
Person of the Year from the Institute for Sustainable Enterprise
The Sustainability Award from the New Jersey Economic Development Authority
Governor's Environmental Excellence Award
Distinguished Civic Leadership Award from the NJ Chapter of the American Planning Association
Interior Design and LEED/WELL Consultant
Famously known as a designer who goes against the grain in an industry so fixated on trends, Interior Designer and Entrepreneur Blanche Garcia’s aesthetic is not one that can be labeled. Instead, her design is looked upon as a lifestyle that is individual to her and especially to each of her projects.
Blanche has a degree in Interior Design from Willsey Institute of Interior Design and Berkley, New York. Having a knack for intuitively knowing how a client’s space should look, feel and function – her design philosophy and approach urges clients to envision a space that is the backdrop to the life they want to live. To Blanche Garcia, every decision in her work has a holistic purpose—every fixture, every color and every piece of furniture has a reason to help tell a story.
Today, Blanche is a certified Interior Designer with over 25 years of experience in hospitality, residential, and commercial design and is the owner of the award winning design firm B. garcia Designs based in Montclair, New Jersey. She is a “Green Design” LEED Accredited Professional through the United States Green Building Council. She is also a member of ASID and a “WELL AP” accredited design professional, which utilizes healthy concepts to promote human health and wellness within the built environment.
Blanche was also the principal designer featured in the popular Travel Channel reality series, "Hotel Impossible" for five seasons, and is the author of her book “Empowered Design: A Design Plan for Living.” HGTV also named her one of their Faces of Design. Her client list ranges from celebrities, corporations, restaurants, hotels, nightclubs, & homes all over the world. She has been featured on the cover of Montclair Magazine, and in the pages of Boutique Design Magazine, Inspire Design, the Wall Street Journal, The Huffington Post, US Magazine, Red Book, and more.
Blanche will not only spearhead the Interior Design of all of the built spaces within the community, but she will also utilize her LEED and WELL expertise to thread wellness into Merriwood’s infrastructure and culture. Every design element, as it relates to each one of the homes and gathering space will support a holistic balance of beauty and healthy living.
Ben Falk & Cornelius Murphy
Whole Systems Design
Whole Systems Design is responsible for the agricultural plan overlay for Merriwood. As a practice, WSD plans, develops and manages resilient human habitats - landscape and infrastructure systems - that yield perennial abundance and enduring value. These become adaptive, resilient and relatively secure in a future of peak oil, climate instability, and deepening economic insolvency. They plan, develop, and manage land-based wealth preservation and security projects for those with the forethought to invest an abundance of present day resources to reduce their family's vulnerability to future food, energy and other supply-chain disturbances, as well as peak-oil, climatic, economic and other events.
Developing this solar infrastructure requires a multi-disciplinary approach integrating ecology, agriculture, architecture, and construction. Their process and results are scalable from residential properties to neighborhoods to regions.
Mr. Francis is the owner and CEO of Maine Construction Group. Maine Construction Group is one of Maine’s leading construction contractors delivering high quality home renovations, home remodels, new home construction and commercial construction for over ten years. They are also the only authorized independent retailer of Prestige Homes in the greater Bangor area. The houses will be around a core manufactured by the “Holmes on Holmes” endorsed Prestige Homes. Maine Construction Group has a focus on energy efficient buildings that minimize greenhouse gas emissions and construction waste. They are proud to be the on-location builder for the Travel Channel show Hotel Impossible with CEO Ryan Francis making numerous on-camera appearances. Maine Construction Group is also the only authorized independent retailer of Prestige Homes in the greater Bangor area. Ryan Francis is a native of the Downeast region of Maine, is an Eagle Scout, and is involved in numerous civic organizations.
BRIBURN is an award-winning architectural firm in Maine that specializes in energy-efficient planet-positive design. BRIBURN practices Architecture for life: The creation of architecture that is timeless, environmentally friendly, beautiful, and long-lasting. It is architecture that focuses on the experiences of the building’s occupants, enhancing their daily lives with natural daylight, excellent ventilation, and delightful spaces that engage their artful minds. It is architecture that is mindful of our finite resources and respectful of the natural environment. It is architecture that will stand the test of time by being very durable, simple to operate, economical to maintain, and beautiful.
We are at a pivotal place in the history of our environment and BRIBURN takes their role in it seriously. Their understanding of sustainability is deep and their commitment true, being at the forefront of building science, energy efficiency, and the latest sustainable products and techniques. While many other firms struggle to keep up with the latest energy codes (even while touting themselves as green) BRIBURN is working on buildings that heat themselves almost entirely with the sun, offset the costs of high-performing building envelopes with less expensive mechanical systems. By energy modeling all of their designs they are able to balance investments with savings, reduce consumption, increase durability, ensure high indoor air quality, and incorporate healthy, low-toxin, resource-efficient materials.
BRIBURN has brought to fruition the Nation’s first Passive House high school for the Maine Coast Waldorf School, Maine’s first WELL certified office for the Nature Conservancy in Maine, and is presently finishing up work on what will be Maine’s first Living Building Challenge project (The Ecology School). They have also been responsible for numerous LEED, net zero, net positive, and passive house projects. Their work has been often featured in Maine Home+Design Magazine, Green and Healthy Maine Homes, and is also featured Downeast Homes, Fine Homebuilding, and Dwell. Book publications include, Nature Inside - A Biophilic Guide, and Passive House Details – Solutions for High Performance Design. Most recently, their work can be seen on HGTV’s Urban Oasis 2020.
The Merriwood team is led by Principal Architect Christopher Briley, and Project Manager, Ian Parlin. Chris is a Maine Licensed Architect, a Certified Passive House Consultant, and LEED accredited professional with over 26 years experience in the field of architecture and environmental design. He is a Co-host and founder of the Green Architects Lounge podcast, one of the original developers of the Pretty Good House movement, a member of NESEA Northeast Sustainable Energy Association, a member of PHAUS (Passive House Alliance U.S.) and a member and one of the founding board members of PassivhausMAINE.
Ian Parlin started his career working in Scotland specializing in historic building restoration, improving the energy efficiency of older buildings and extending their lives. After returning to Maine in 2004 Ian worked on a variety of environmentally responsible building types from single family homes to commercial buildings and public schools. The process of designing an energy efficient, low maintenance home for his parents inspired Ian to join Briburn and focus on this type of work. Ian is a LEED Accredited Professional and has been involved with numerous sustainably focused projects.
Whole Systems Design
Whole Systems Design identifies, designs, develops, and manages resilient human habitats - landscape and infrastructure systems - that yield perennial abundance and enduring value. We site, design, plant and build the elements of sustaining places: Permaculture and regenerative farm systems, natural buildings and infrastructure, outdoor living spaces, food gardens, orchards, watercourses, ponds, woodlands, meadows, pasture. We site buildings and roadways, design stonewalls and outbuildings and construct these components. We also produce management plans to ensure the success of these systems. All of our projects are designed for climate change.
These sites become adaptive, resilient and relatively secure in a future of peak oil, climate instability, and deepening economic insolvency. We plan, develop, and manage land-based wealth preservation and security projects for those with the forethought to invest an abundance of present day resources to reduce their family's vulnerability to future food, energy and other supply-chain disturbances, as well as peak-oil, climatic, economic and other events.
Through our planning partner Whole Systems Design Collective, we design and implement regenerative food, fuel, and shelter systems that operate on current solar energy. These are homesteads, farms and schools fit for a challenging future of peak oil, climate change and economic transition.
THINGS WE LIKE
There are many books, movies, people and places that have contributed to our vision for Merriwood. Here are some of them. To those of you that join Merriwood, we look forward to learning about the things that inspire you as we shape the future of the community together.
The Biggest Little Farm. How can Merriwood’s farm thrive in balance with Nature? This film tells the story by chronicling the eight-year quest of John and Molly Chester as they trade city living for 200 acres of barren farmland and a dream. By embracing the opportunity provided by nature's conflicts, the Chester’s unlock and uncover a biodiverse design for living that exists far beyond their farm, its seasons, and our wildest imagination.
The Omnivore’s Dilemma. “Eat (real) food, mostly plants, not too much”. While we don’t agree with every point, Michael Pollen’s book remains the seminal work on sustainable eating and is filled with critical insights.
Patagonia: From Merriwood founder Randy Solomon - I met Yvonne Chouinard while working for the Resource Renewal Institute in San Francisco where Yvonne was serving on the Board of Trustees. I found meaningful inspiration in Chounard’s advocacy for the environment, and in his book “Let My People Go Surfing”. I also highly recommend their gear.
The Resilient Farm and Homestead. Ben Falk is a visionary who is reinventing the practice of human settlement that combines living in balance with nature with human self sufficiency. His book, The Resilient Farm and Homestead, brings his perspectives together with his practical knowledge. Ben and his colleague Cornelius Murphy at Whole Systems Design are members of the Merriwood Design Team.
Blanche Garcia. Blanche inspires us with her sustainability vision, colorful personality, and refined design sensibility. That’s why we added her to Merriwood’s design team. You can see her work on shows on Travel Channel, HGTV and various other networks. You can also check out her website VLog and Instagram account for a cool design fix.
Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed. In Jared Diamond’s follow-up to the Pulitzer-Prize winning Guns, Germs and Steel, the author explores how climate change, the population explosion and political discord create the conditions for the collapse of civilization. And he explores some of the hopeful seeds of change that could prevent it.
An Inconvenient Truth. The movie about Al Gore’s campaign to educate people about climate change has been credited with raising international public awareness of global warming and reenergizing the environmental movement. Merriwood will contribute to the effort to stem climate change, while simultaneously ensuring that we are prepared for it.
Dwell Magazine. The places we live should inspire us. Dwell is a magazine and online community of designers and design enthusiasts sharing their passion, vision, and their amazing works.
Star Trek. What’s not to like about campy-preachy sci-fi that shows us that human beings can live together with peace and justice? Just don’t forget the phasers and the occasional Romulan Ale.
A Soldier of the Great War. Sometimes you need a great novel to read while relaxing by the lake. This one will do.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Q: Is this a commune or or intentional community?
A: No. Most of the members of Merriwood will use their homes in the summer and for family gatherings around the holidays but will maintain the bulk of their social lives and livelihoods outside of the community. However, it is our intent that members of the community share a similar vision and set of values, and are committed to maintaining and growing the vibrancy and resiliency of the community.
Members can be as involved and engaged in the social life and governance of Merriwood as they want. Each family has a private home and lot. Privacy is guaranteed. Some will want to keep a low profile. Others will want to dig in and help plan the next farm expansion or community event.
Q: How much will I need to be involved in community governance and decisions?
A: Every household will be required to vote in annual elections for the Board of Trustees. Beyond that, involvement is as much or as little as you want. Once the development phase is complete, Merriwood will be governed by an elected Board of Trustees, and committees will be formed to oversee areas such as the agricultural operation, sustainability, and community activities and events.
Q: Why only 51 units on 1,000 acres?
A: Merriwood is not a traditional development. The 1,000-acre landscape provides resources that will add to the resiliency and enjoyment of the community. The built footprint of Merriwood will only encompass 15% of the entire site. The forests will be managed for wildlife and biodiversity and will provide a sustainable source of wood for fires and stoves, and for construction. The farm will provide sustenance, income, and a connection to the land. A network of trails will provide opportunities for hiking, camping, mountain biking, snowshoeing, and much more.
Q: Will I have to work on the farm?
A: No. The farm will be professionally managed and has everything it needs from the paid staff to thrive. All engagement with the farm is voluntary.
Q: Can I engage with the farm?
A: There are numerous opportunities to become engaged. Especially around spring planting and fall harvest, every helping hand is welcome. Members of the community collectively own the farm, and we encourage people to engage with it to become better managers and stewards. The farm will work to improve and expand every year. What would you like to see in the future? Honey, semi-wild mushrooms, cheese, wool...it is all possible. The involvement of community members is welcome in the planning and execution of the farm’s future.
Q: How will farm produce be shared?
A: Every household will receive weekly credits that they can use at the farm store to select whatever they like that is in season.
Q: Can I rent my home?
A: No. Merriwood will be a tight-knit community, and a constant stream of renters is not compatible with our vision. However, you are welcome to share or lend your home to family and friends as often as you like, as long as there is no monetary transaction. Listing homes on websites or platforms for public rental is strictly prohibited.
Q: Are firearms allowed?
A: Yes. No firearms will be allowed in common areas (the lodge, wellness center, or other places people hang out) except for the dedicated shooting/archery range. Hunting will be allowed on dedicated parts of the forested areas.
Q: Is the lake powerboat friendly?
A: By state law, yes. But to maintain our tranquil natural environment, Merriwood will be exclusively providing non-motorized watercrafts to the community.
Q: Can I add on to my home or add an accessory dwelling unit?
A: Yes. But expansions to your home within the first 5 years of the purchase must go through Merriwood and it’s dedicated builder.
Q: Will I have to go out and chop or buy my own wood for heating/fireplaces/woodstoves?
A: No. Cords of wood (harvested from our own sustainably managed forest) will be provided to each homeowner by the association team.
Q: Can I buy my lot and have my own builder?
A: Generally not, but exceptions can be made for exceptional circumstances.
Q: Can I park an RV on my property?
A: Yes, with some reasonable restrictions.
Q: When will Merriwood be completed?
A: Construction of our first residences will begin in 2021 with an expectation to have all homes and community amenities completed by 2024.
Q: How much input can I have in the design of my home?
A: Materials, finishes, appliances, furniture, can all be individualized with professional design support (or you can just leave it to us). Individual accommodations beyond this will be made on a case-by-case basis.
Q: What is internet access going to be like?
A: Merriwood will have robust broadband access.
Q: Will there be backup generators for the community?
A: Each home will have a rooftop solar system that can power the home with battery backup storage. Each home will also be integrated with the Merriwood Micro-Grid that can provide emergency power beyond what can be provided with rooftop solar systems. A long-term power plan will develop local sustainable fuel and energy sources that can meet all of our power needs.
Q: What security will be provided?
A: Homes will have security systems installed and Merriwood staff will provide monitoring and basic security during times of normal operation. Provisions will have been made for enhanced security if the community needs to enter into “Offline Operations” mode (Defined as Merriwood moving into a mode of 100% self-reliance - power generation, sustenance, etc.)
Q: What restrictions will there be from the HOA on the use of my property?
A: The philosophy of the HOA is to allow people to do what they want on their property. Most homes will not be visible from the road or from another home. Merriwood has no interest in the color of your house, or whether or not you mow your lawn, or even have a lawn. There will be restrictions on the use of non-native invasive plants for landscaping, limits (but not a prohibition) on livestock, and some other basic rules to protect the water supply (no chemical lawn treatments).
Q: Are pets allowed?
A: We love animals and most pets are welcome. Dogs must be kept on a leash while in common areas and other common-sense restrictions will be in place.
Q: Why are there no houses directly on the water?
A: Merriwood owns 1.5 miles of pristine lakefront. With the exception of Sundragon Lodge, the developed footprint of Merriwood is pulled away from the shoreline to preserve the natural aesthetic, and keep the lake pristine.