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The Resort Town Curse
By Daryl L. Hunter
Fall Creek Falls, autumn, Swan Valley, Idaho
Double rainbow over Swan Valley Idaho

In 1962 as a child my family went through Carmel California and after my exclaimation how wonderful the place was, my mother explained to me that it was against the law to cut down a tree in the town and it was so beautiful I wondered why every town didn't do that.

A few years later my hometown did enact all kinds of restricted zoning like Carmel's and now I couldn't afford to move back there if I wanted to. This town is now populated with what they call "Grey Gold", rich retired people that ran up the property values so high that native born could no longer afford to live there.

I have lived in many resort towns since, and I have noticed a trend. I am attracted to them when they are still little, quaint and undiscovered, but it usually isn't long before word spreads about the next great place.

The newcomers arrive and they marvel at the scenery, but yearn for a classier looking town. Then comes the planning and zoning like they had back home. Everyone's property value goes up and everyone is happy.

The town no longer looks like an old farm town; it starts looking like cool mountain town that will soon be on the cover of Outside Magazine. Lycra clad bicyclers start outnumbering cowboys and farmers. It looks like a whole different place and it is. Planning and zoning has made a very attractive place for people who used to never live there and the children of the locals can no longer afford to.

Palisades reservior, autumn, Swan Valley, Idaho
Autumn color at Palisades Reservior beneth the Snake River Range in Swan Valley Idaho

The lycra clads don't want us to take any timber off the mountain, don't want us to go there on a snowmobile or 4-wheelers, and are greatly offended by our cows and religion.  Despite all listed above, we zone a valley that attract folks like this who will want to change our way of life.

In 1986 I drove through Swan Valley during my move to Jackson Hole. I marveled at the beauty, but wondered why everyone left it so run down. I have come to realize after watching so many places get discovered by the rich, why it may be better to leave a place a little run down, or maybe do some zoning that includes the working man, and maybe the working man's grandchildren. I have worked in Jackson Hole for 28 years and I have seen many of Jackson's own born an bred have to leave to make room for the well heeled that financially displaced them.

It's nice to see your property escalate in value; however, if you don't plan on selling out, you are just building yourself a bigger property tax bill that you may not be able to afford after you retire. I imagine that when I can't work anymore my high property taxes will make me sell out for a nice profit, but then I will have to move to Mud Lake Idaho where the property and property taxes will still be affordable as no one wants to live there.

Double rainbow over the Snake River in Swan Valley Idaho

Swan Valley is entering this mentality.  We have outlawed city lots, mobile homes not on foundations, mandated snow-loads for roofs that eliminate the ability to buy economical used mobile homes, and designer septic tanks that ad $41.00 a month to a mortgage. It all seems like such a good idea.


\Com`pre*hen"sive\, a. [Cf. F. compr['e]hensif.] 1. Including much; comprising many things; having a wide scope or a full view. A very comprehensive definition. --Bentley. Large and comprehensive idea. --Channing. 2. Having the power to comprehend or understand many things. ``His comprehensive head.'' --Pope. 3. (Zo["o]l.) Possessing peculiarities that are characteristic of several diverse groups.

Comprehensive Planning

It dumfounds me that comprehensive planning in resort areas rarely factors the planner's progeny or retiree's property tax liability.

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