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04/28/2004 Archived Entry: "Not good news for FSPers on a budget"

THIS ISN'T GREAT NEWS FOR FSPers ON A BUDGET. Or for FSPers who crave low-key, out-of-the-way places.

Pat Taylor, a reader of this blog, wrote a letter to Backwoods Home magazine about the pressures a "tourism economy" could put on a rural area. A man in Coos County, New Hampshire, dropped Pat an e-note, reporting on worrying development he's seeing there. With Pat's and his permission, I've pasted his letter and its followup behind the "more" link.

Every time one of us western Free State Project members frets about the perceived lack of wide open spaces in New Hampshire, some New Hampshirite inevitably says: "Coos County." Every time one of us not-exactly-rich FSPers frets about the ghastly real estate prices in New Hampshire, some New Hampshirite inevitably says: "Coos County." Although by Wyoming or Montana standards, the spaces aren't that open or the prices that low, Coos County has become the Hope for a certain sort of FSPer. (Like my sort, for instance.) Now, gotta wonder ...

The man from Coos County to Pat Taylor

Enjoyed your letter in Backwoods Home Magazine. It gave me food for thought.

Living in sparsely populated Coos County in NH I thought I was fairly immune from excessive tourist pressure. The local joke was that NH ended at the White Mountains. While we always had some tourists, they were usually the hunter, fisherman, hiker types, with a short burst of "leaf peepers" in the fall.

Something strange is going on. The county is losing population, but land and home prices are rising through the roof. Many of my new neighbors are people who would once have bought land in the Lakes region of NH. Prices down there pushed buyers further north.

My town of 1200 people just approved applications for three campgrounds. Real estate agents pester me to sell my home. Houses near me have sold for well over their assessed value. That's all well and good, but taxes have taken a huge jump and I fear more increases are on the way.

Two of my daughters are now in the house market and that brought the recent jump of prices to my attention. They and their husbands will be moving in with my wife and I to allow them a chance to save enough money for a down payment. I've traveled quite a bit and have seen how quickly an area can be built up. Every time a large parcel of woodland goes up for sale, I cringe knowing how quickly hundreds or even thousands of condos can be erected.

Outside money can do some weird things. A local ski shop with large attached house was bought, not as a business or a residence, but a place for the owners to keep their snowmobiles.

I'm not opposed to change as that's the way of life, but the wrong kind of change can ruin a community. Thanks for an eye opener.

Take care.

In a followup note, he adds:

I'm not saying NH is bad. The more I travel, the more I like NH. There are still plenty of places that have good value. It's just that the North Country is no longer immune to development pressure.You've opened my eyes for specific things to watch out for. Personally, I welcome people who come to NH who are sensitive to what makes it special. Much better having families, who want to make a life for themselves, than being just a playground for the wealthy.

Posted by Claire @ 08:22 AM CST

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