It's been 10 years since a local group proposed developing land on the west side of Lake O'Springs to create a community of Vastu houses. The first one has been built, but developers have opted to adjust their plans.
JACKSON TWP. The pale green house stands like a lone sentinel watching over Lake O'Springs.
The Vastu Vidya style house, built in the Lake O'Springs Village development, likely is the first of its design in Stark County. Other houses are expected to join in the coming months, but it's uncertain how many more might follow the Vastu design.
When first planned in 2006, developers wanted all of the houses in Lake O' Springs Village to be the Vastu style. Plans are changing, in part because builders are shying away from the idea and lots haven't been selling. Now the plan is to build a community with houses that meet environmentally friendly standards and are energy efficient, said David A. Kidd, who leads Ohio Vedic Homes, the group developing the lakeside property off Lake O'Springs Avenue NW.
"Basically, it's a hard sell," Kidd said of the Vastu style. He and other partners will be content to see three to five Vastu houses built in the development.
That doesn't take away from the original plan to create a natural looking, environmentally-friendly neighborhood.
Kidd said Lake O' Springs Village homeowners will be asked to meet one of several standards: Leadership in Energy and Environment Design (LEED) standards developed by the U.S. Green Building Council; the Home Energy Rating measurement as established by the Residential Energy Services Network; or the Energy Star international program noting energy efficient appliances and equipment are being used.
The Vastu concept lends itself to reduced energy use and environmentally friendly construction. The style relies on ideas for placing, designing and building houses in ways that contribute to improved health, happiness and peace of mind.
Peace and comfort
Former Shaker Heights resident Zanna Feitler owns the Vastu house on the shore of Lake O' Springs. She moved in at the end of April and has been working to have it rated as LEED platinum certified. The house actually could be one of the country's first concerted efforts to combine Vastu and LEED techniques.
Feitler, a student and teacher of transcendental meditation, has been familiar with Vastu for years. She has stayed in Vastu designed houses in North Carolina and Iowa. "I just felt the peace and comfort," she said.
Feitler has known Kidd for more than 40 years and first visited Lake O' Springs Village in 2013. She fell in love with the location and last year began building her new house.
At first glance, the two-story structure isn't much different than other homes. But Vastu belief is that buildings facing east bring the greatest benefits to the health and success of the occupants. So Feitler's house has the front door facing east and the sunrise, which means the front of the house is facing Lake O' Springs instead of the street.
The kitchen is in the southeast corner where the morning and evening sunlight pass through the windows. That helps promote better energy for cooking and digestion, according to Vastu beliefs.
A noticeable difference to the house is a cupola on the roof at the center. Vastu houses are designed with a central, silent space. The cupola is open from the main floor to the roof. Windows help move air to cool and ventilate the house, and also provide light.
Feitler described it as a silent space at the center of the house that reflects the silence deep inside each person.
The house's environmental concepts are important to Feitler, and she admits to being somewhat extreme with some of the aspects in the building. The house has geothermal heat, additional insulation, double walls and two sets of solar panels — one covers part of the east roof and another is on the roof of a porch on the south side. Through the summer she had a negative electric bill, but that could change as she heats the house this winter.
Outside, Feitler used permeable pavers for the driveway and walkway. That will allow rainwater to soak into the ground instead of causing run-off to the lake. The yard is landscaped with plants that can endure dry weather.
The setting is peaceful, and she can watch birds and animals around the lake or chat with neighbors as they walk their dogs.
"Now that my yard is coming to life, it really feels a bit like heaven," she said.
Lake O' Springs, like Lake Cable to the south and Lake Slagle on the north, is man made. The lake came to be about 100 years ago when members of John Braucher's family built a levy in wetlands, Kidd said. Nearby springs feed the lake.
The property became a recreational spot for fishing and company outings, but by the 1990s the spot wasn't being used as much. Kidd and other investors bought the land in 2006. Kidd said the group was looking for a location to build a center for transcendental mediation. They asked about buying a few acres and ended up buying the entire lake. The property includes a number of vacant lots nearby, as well as the area plotted for Lake O' Springs Village.
The project was delayed because of reviews by the Army Corps of Engineers. The government agency spent four years on planned changes for the site and continues to monitor work there, Kidd said.
The developers removed trees, reshaped the slope along Lake O' Springs Avenue NW and filled in some sections of the lake. Kidd said changes reshaped the lake and reduced it to 26 acres from 27 acres.
Two cul-de-sacs have been built and the property has been platted for 25 lots, some of which have been sold. There also is a common area set aside for residents to use that provides access to the lake. Another four acres on the lake's north side has been placed in a land trust to protect some of the wetlands, Kidd said.
As houses are built, new residents will be asked to meet deed restrictions to match the effort to create an environmentally friendly community, Kidd said. There also will be a homeowners association to review house designs and colors, he said. The community will aim for houses that offer a rustic appearance, using stone and natural colors.
"We like the rustic look," Kidd said. "It just fits when you're on a lake."
More information about the development is available at www.lakeospringsvillage.com. An open house at Feitler's Vastu house is set for noon to 4 p.m. on Oct. 14 and Oct. 21.
Reach Edd at 330-580-8484 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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