Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Damn Flatlanders

We have a number of terms for folks that move “from away” into one of our towns, set up housekeeping, and then start working to change the very things that made the town of their choice so attractive to them. We call them flatlanders, carpetbaggers, Massholes (specific to flatlanders from Massachusetts), and “totally effin' clueless.”

I've seen more than my share over the years and they have characteristics that are common, making them easy to spot. A few:

They have spent a number of years vacationing in the area, usually during the summer. They've never spent all seven seasons here, never had to deal with snow, ice, mud, black flies, bikers, and leaf peepers.

During their summers in the area they've gotten involved with few, if any of the town activities. Fourth of July was probably the only one. Maybe. And perhaps one of the local craft fairs.

Should they visit during the off-season they're amazed at how quiet it is in town, commenting on the closed seasonal shops or restaurants.

They wonder why the supermarkets are so far away (more than 20 minutes) and find it inconceivable the local grocery/general store doesn't stock their favorite gourmet foodstuff.

But what really makes these folks so unwelcome in their new towns is their actions once they settle in. It seems the instant they're moved in they make it their mission to change the town where they now reside. Whether they realize it or not, they end up trying to turn the town into a clone of the place they left, not understanding that all their 'plans' cost money the townspeople will have to pay, money they may not necessarily have.

Think it can't happen? Think again.

Town Meeting and elections have been held here in NH over the last couple of weeks (with more voting in some towns still to come). I've been helping one group of people, the Moultonborough Citizens Alliance, with their site as they advocate for implementing SB2 style of voting and for keeping taxes lower.

Well, while they did not achieve their goal of getting SB2 implemented, they came REAL CLOSE! And they did defeat a contentious issue of a new edifice in town.

During that time, lots of Letters to the Editors were written, pro and con. The two that caught my eye seems to be all too typical lately - Wealthy couple moves into small hamlet, considers taxes dirt cheap, get buyer's remorse over the "smallness" of the town, and decide to ramp up town spending (and therefore taxes).

Because the mentality expressed by this couple (yup! a twofer!) of "we know better than you do even though we just moved in and have more money than you" irks me so much, being of sound mind and body, I just couldn't leave them alone.

I've seen that attitude from some new residents in more than one town. The names and locations may change, but the actions are the same. Sometimes they don't know when to leave well enough alone. Too often, they never learn.

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