Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Live the Country Life, with city style! (yeah, right)

There is a movement afoot to bring city-style, gated communities far out into the countryside. Companies manufacturing these places love to tout them as islands of amenities on a wild, verdant landscape. They also tend to get the support of private property interest groups, the argument being since these companies own the land, they should be able to do whatever they want. Don't buy these arguments, and definitely don't buy a house in one of these developments! New city-like development far from city infrastructure carries with it many costs for everybody in our state, including the costs of protecting new development from wildfires, storms and floods, and with providing ambulance services, police departments, supermarkets, roads, water, etc. These amenities destroy country life while costing more and putting more people in danger.

Oftentimes when a company builds a couple hundred homes on its own property out in the country, the adjacent land in the immediate future remains largely okay. If that were the end of that, the deals completely private, there'd be no complaint. But they aren't private. A couple hundred residences mean greater costs for all of us. These homes, built far from work and family, aren't sold to country folk (which is why they have to drive dozens of miles to work), and the realities of country life are hidden from these consumers. City folk expect all the amenities, like 911 service to have an ambulance at your door inside of 10 minutes, or perfect roads without potholes. They will of course expect all of us to foot the bill for fire suppression, while most of them won't know how or take the right steps to protect their own houses. They will insist on chain stores and convenient gas stations. They will cause traffic jams, thereby encouraging bigger roads and then bigger development. And they will suck water like there's no tomorrow.

They will try to bring the city with them to the country. When that happens, they either face the harsh reality of life far away from conveniences, or they no longer have country. In the meantime, we all have to pay more for construction and infrastructure, firefighting and air pollution.

Here's a twist: many of these places are billed as retirement homes, so as people age, they are sold the idea to move away from the assistance and conveniences they are going to need.

Country life is not easier than city life, it is often more difficult. Many country places don't have cities because they were hard to live on to begin with. Temperatures are often more extreme, power outages more frequent, water hazardous to drink, roads with farming or logging machinery. Storms and fires can isolate whole communities from the outside world. Simple events like grocery shopping, or having clothes mended, much less car and plumbing emergencies, have to be dealt with very differently. And driving takes up larger chunks of your time.

This trend to convince people that they can have city amenities with country charm is baloney, and if these places didn't have such an impact on other people, then one could just say 'caveat emptor' and leave it at that. But they do have a huge impact on all of us: from those of us who try to sustain a country life under attack from many sides, to those who eat food, use water, pay taxes, drive down streets and breathe.

Let cities deal with their problems first, before giving people the illusion of a cheaper alternative in the countryside. Don't be fooled: the costs are the same, they are just borne by different people under different circumstances. Let cities fix their infrastructures, improve their services, and provide places that are more charming, cleaner, and greener. Keep folks ignorant of the difficulties of country life out of life in the country. It's too expensive, and we all have to pay for them.

1 comment:

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