By Mike Rosso
Last month, our intrepid proofreader Meryl announced that she and her family would be relocating to Vermont this summer and she could no longer help to find those obscure typos, misspellings and other grammatical transgressions in our publication.
This was a disappointment on many levels as, not only are we losing a talented proofreader, I’m also losing some great neighbors and a fine hairstylist. Their reason for moving? It turns out the commercial building they were renting downtown to operate their businesses was sold and the new owner’s intention is to “fix and flip” it, meaning the property will undergo a period of noisy remodeling, then be put back on the market, all shiny and new at a premium price.
“Fix and flip” seems to be synonymous with Salida these days. Things are changing so fast, it’s nearly impossible to keep up, and I always thought I had a good sense of what’s happening in my home town.
Some businesses come and go as per usual, others are expanding and remodeling to serve the visitors to the newly-discovered Salida. New restaurants and shops are opening at a record clip, and downtown is suddenly filled with camera-wielding tourists and other newcomers, seeking the quieter life, away from the cities. Problem is, it’s no longer that quiet around here.
Salida has also been discovered by hogs – aging baby boomers finding their fountain of youth by straddling noisy, two-wheeled machines and announcing their arrival into town to all within a few block radius.
More tourists and residents also mean more flight-for-life helicopters, their frequency quite alarming considering every arrival indicates some kind of dire medical emergency.
There are more planes flying in and out of our small airport, more SUVs and recreational vehicles navigating our streets, more barking dogs, more flyovers from trainees from Fort Carson, more air compressors powering construction tools, and, of course, more juveniles in oversized trucks trying to impress the opposite sex with their modern mating call, the diesel engine.
Having moved here from another tourist town, Durango, none of this is surprising. Once your town starts making the “best of” lists in magazines devoted to selling high-end recreational equipment, it’s only a matter of time before you become the next “boom town,” in the immortal words of singer-songwriter Greg Brown.
Housing prices are going through the roof and the available inventory is limited. Some Denver folks are making a killing selling their homes there, one of the hottest markets in the country, and moving here to live out their dreams.
This leaves me concerned for long-time locals and for young families trying to get by. There is a workforce shortage due to the expensive and limited rental market. Most new homes being built are not affordable to those who count on Salida’s economy for their income. Many existing homes sit empty for months at a time, their part-time residents sheltering themselves in some other locale. Others are rented out at a premium on VRBO or Airbnb.
More than a few locals have told me that if they were currently looking to move here for the first time, they would choose not to, due to the high cost of living and low wages. I myself would probably look elsewhere if I were looking to relocate.
My Vermont-bound neighbors fit into that category. They would love to stay here and raise their two children, but the economic realities of a “most desirable” town come at a cost.
I just hope that cost finds some kind of balance, where some peoples’ version of paradise does not become someone else’s version of purgatory.