The Mad Dogs eventually developed the concept of creating a planned urban neighborhood of clustered homes that were in harmony with their natural surroundings, much as the original homes in the rural land co-op had been. The idea of Blairstone Forest neighborhood was born. The Mad Dog company bought a 51-acre tract of hardwood bottomland in the middle of the city which had never been built on, because it was thought to be too low and too wet for housing. The neighborhood was platted in such a manner that the streets follow the natural ridges of the terrain. The rainwater flows off the streets in a sheeting action across the housing lots, and into natural streams and ponds. The homes were built in a cluster fashion so as to preserve 26 acres of the woods, which have meandering boardwalks running through them. The control over these 26 acres, owned in common by the Blairstone Forest Community Association, was ceded to the Florida Land Conservancy, to be held in perpetual trust so as to never be used for housing sites. The natural environment was respected during the building of each home, with nearly all the homes sited off-grade and built of cedar and other woods. This allows the natural flow of rainwater to continue, the natural vegetation to flourish and the woods creatures to continue to live in the same environment. Only the trees that had to be removed to make way for the footprints of the homes were cut down, and deed restrictions prevent the cutting of trees larger than five inches in diameter by homeowners without the approval of the neighborhood association. At least 30 percent of each housing lot has to be left undisturbed.
The neighborhood demonstrates that homes can be built within an extremely fragile environment without destroying the very attractions that brought homeowners there in the first place. For its sensitive treatment of the environment during the development of the Blairstone Forest neighborhood, the Mad Dog Company was awarded the Leon County Environmental Award in 1986, making this neighborhood the only residential community to ever receive this award. Blairstone Forest is proof that developers don’t have to assault the landscape to make a profit, that they can far exceed tree and landscape ordinances, and that they can turn stormwater drainage necessities into community amenities.
The neighborhood has squirrels, raccoons, possums, rabbits, large owls and a myriad of other birds. The owls flourish here because of the presence of so many beech wood trees, which have large natural openings, providing the owls with perfect homes. There is a four-acre lake in the neighborhood, with an island in the middle of the lake. Neighbors reach the gazebo on the island by using a wooden footbridge. Although Blairstone Forest is just a short drive from downtown Tallahassee, once a resident enters the neighborhood, the sounds of the city are gone. The homes are surrounded by noise-deadening trees, and the primary sounds to be heard are the sounds of calling birds and scurrying squirrels.
The Mad Dog company created the Blairstone Forest Community Association, Inc., which is now controlled entirely by the neighborhood residents, and which oversees strict covenants that are written into deed restrictions for each housing site. Residents have been attracted to the neighborhood by the knowledge that the houses already there will not drastically change in appearance, and the surrounding woods will never be built upon. In order for any structure to be built or remodeled in the neighborhood, the Community Association’s Architectural Review Board must approve its design, use of building materials, exterior appearance and placement on the lot. The neighborhood association owns the streets and all the public areas, making the neighbors truly in charge of their own neighborhood.