By Amanda Steiner


            Imagine living in a community where everyone knows your name and you are actually friends with the neighbors. Imagine living in a place where it is quiet except for the children playing in the backyard two houses down or the occasional cluck from a chicken in the yard across the street. Imagine walking down the sidewalk and seeing someone pruning their rose bush, or picking the tomatoes out of their garden. Imagine walking to the post office and seeing ten people you know along the way. Imagine selling pottery, quilts and other homemade items from your home. Imagine running a bed and breakfast or a small coffee shop in the village and being able to walk to the bakery a few blocks away or to the market down the street.

            This is the vision of Simpler Times Village , a community that focuses on friends, family and the freedom to live a simple life that most cities and neighborhoods can’t offer. Like most communities, the Simpler Times Village started with a vision; a concept dreamt up by Josh and Sarah Brown. The couple believes that there is a type of life missing today that many people long for.

“We don’t live connected lives anymore,” said Josh. “We don’t know our neighbors, we have to drive everywhere and friends live far away. The way our zoning laws were made has done a lot to separate families because everybody does something on a different side of town. You have the kids in daycare over here, or they are stuck at home relying on mom and so you have a soccer mom mentality where mom is just shuttling children all over the place. It’s stressful to live that kind of lifestyle and it’s not producing a high quality of life. We are so blessed here but we are not using that blessing sensibly in a way that makes a wonderful experience.”

            Josh and Sarah became discontented with the fast-paced way of life. They wanted to build a place where they didn’t have to drive across town to go grocery shopping, or hop in the car and drive 30 minutes to go see a friend. In the Simpler Times community, you can walk everywhere and therefore spend more time with friends and family.

The town won’t be just another subdivision either. “Now places being built are a product,” said Josh. “We’ve chosen the Wal-Mart mentality with our housing and the way we live. We’ve chosen low price over uniqueness and sense of place.” But they are changing that mentality.

The Simpler Times concept began as a group of people that called themselves the Simpler Times Family Co-Op. Started by Josh and Sarah, they invited a group of around 50 families to get together and share food, crafts and skills. After getting together the group had an idea.

“We had a women’s tea party and I talked about focusing on the important things in life and simplifying your life,” said Sarah. “And we got to talking and one lady said she wished she didn’t have to drive everywhere and one lady said that her husband is a real estate attorney and one lady said she knew someone that owned land and everyone went home one night and knew we were going to do it.”

Simpler Times is in the planning stage, but it should be finished in 3-7 years, depending on how quickly people move into the homes. The village will be located on 127 acres of land between Pendleton and Anderson, a couple miles South of I-69.

            So far, the project is well underway. “The master plan is finished. The planning is complete,” said Brian Wright, C.N.U. of Principal Town Planning and Urban Design Collaborative, the firm helping Josh and Sarah bring their dream to reality. “We have submitted the PUD to Madison County and we are going for tech review soon and have started the approval process.”

Brian says that this is one of the most unique projects in the nation because of the strong sense of what is being created. “This project is such a project of passion, heart and dreams,” said Brian. “Josh and Sarah aren’t out to make money. This is an unconventional development and this is a place for people who want to have a great quality of life.”

The main goal for Josh and Sarah is to create a place where people have the freedom to live their dreams. “People often have a dream similar to this,” said Josh. “That doesn’t mean that there will be no rules, but there are people who have the dream of turning hobbies into businesses and one thing that is happening is a lot of the families that are coming have a parent at home and so they want to start a business out of the home and so that parent is at home taking care of things and making extra money.”

Is central Indiana ready for a slow-paced community with chickens, goats, cows, gardens and a no-car feel? Is the area ready for a lifestyle that resembles simpler times of the past?

“People told us from the very beginning that we can’t do this,” said Sarah. “And people say it’s too big of a dream, but we are doing it and it’s a lot of work but we don’t want to give up. People say that it’s a great idea but there’s got to be a reason why no one else is doing it. The thing is, we aren’t wanting a profit and builders and developers and community planners have asked for our advice people love our concept and are interested.”

Leslie Dickman plans on living in the Simpler Times Village with her family and is excited about the slower paced lifestyle. Her husband is a coppersmith and plans on having a workshop in a barn on their property making and selling custom cookie cutters and house wares. “We chose to live in Simpler Times because it is a family based community. It is designed for family living and for slowing down in life. We can have the freedom to run a business on our property and to have chickens for the kids to chase after. We will also be surrounded by a variety of people with a similar idea of ‘family first’.”

Families like the Dickmans can find the lifestyle that they desire in Simpler Times. The Dickmans wanted to raise their children in a close knit community. “My husband and I have been forming our lifestyle and parenting around a more natural, slow-paced living experience,” said Leslie. “The Simpler Times concept fits our desires in life.”

“Most people deep in their heart long to live in a community,” said Sarah. “It’s a lonely world out their and I think this will be a catalyst for change in the area.”

The village will be unique in many ways. There will be community gardens and pastures, and homeowners will be free to own livestock and have gardens on their property. The village is pedestrian oriented, and will be designed around people, not cars. Conservation and “green” living will be in consideration with environmentally friendly options for the building materials for the homes and businesses. Also known as “light imprint” the village will use natural systems for capturing storm water and using rain gardens instead of pipes for a more environmentally friendly place to live.

The plan is for part of the community to be a vacation destination with get-away cottages, bed and breakfasts, shopping, dining and outdoor recreational activities.

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