Dear The Land Couple:
My husband and I received your recent offer to buy our parcel of land in Winthrop for the price of a pre-owned 2014 Subaru Outback. Your unexpected and under-researched cash offer (which is about 20% of what we paid for the undeveloped property in 2006, incidentally) indicates that although you are clearly aware of the Methow Valley’s lucrative real estate opportunities, there are still some things that you, as someone with solely a predatory interest in this place, can’t understand. Let me enlighten you.
First, The Land Couple, you didn’t seem to notice that in the 15 years since we bought the property, my husband and I have done a few things to spiff it up. Landscaping wizards we are not, but we can pull weeds like a boss. Dalmation Toadflax, Whitetop, Salsify, Knapweed — all yield to our ruthless grasp. We’d use Glyphosate if only it didn’t have that pesky little side effect of being carcinogenic to our children, bees, chickens, and — oh right — the entire natural world. So for now we’re on the manual eradication program. It’s time-consuming and it could take years to achieve success, but that’s OK; we plan to be here for the long haul.
We’ve done a few other little odds and ends over the years, such as re-trenching the irrigation lines that bisect the property, laying new pipe, sourcing used handline. We irrigate the field somewhat regularly, and sometimes a local sheep farmer grazes his animals there. We keep three hives of bees — the expensive but necessary pollinators of the world’s plants. Anyhoo, we’re doing our best to take care of this property.
Oh, and also we built a house! Careless of you, The Land Couple, to fail to notice that before offering to take our property off our hands for a song and back taxes (which we don’t owe, by the way). For you, this house we built would just be an asset to flip. For us, it’s the foundation upon which our long-term residence in the valley depends.
You see, The Land Couple, we’re in a teensy bit of a housing crisis here in the valley. Those who don’t already own homes here — service industry and nonprofit workers, teachers, artists, writers, carpenters and nurses — are being squeezed out of the housing market. The rental situation is so tight that business owners are exploring ways to build their own employee housing. If we can’t figure out this housing predicament, we’re going to find ourselves with much of our work force commuting from outside the valley. This has happened across the West in other rural mountain towns, like Steamboat Springs, for example.
Oh — you’re from Steamboat Springs! So you’ve seen how that dynamic destroys not just the diversity but also the solidarity of communities. And yet when faced with another mountain town on the brink of losing viability as a place for residents to call home, you, The Land Couple, have chosen to be predator over problem-solver.
It’s possible I’ve underestimated you, The Land Couple. Maybe your intent is to buy Methow Valley parcels and houses and sell them to those who most need a place to settle in the valley — those who want to be contributors to this place, not just consumers of it. Maybe, but I doubt it.
And here’s the thing that really irks me, The Land Couple. I’m guessing that you’ve sent similar letters to my fellow community members. Some of those people may be living in homes that their families have occupied for generations — homes on farms and fields that their forebears have cultivated and sustained their families on. Some may be working multiple jobs just to pay the mortgage and taxes on the houses and land that you are so opportunistically offering to take off their hands for a fraction of what they have invested in them. Some may have risked everything to buy a little piece of land or a home in this beautiful valley, to put down roots, to dedicate themselves to this place and this community.
I don’t know why your unsolicited letter annoys me more than any other piece of junk mail in my mailbox, The Land Couple. I guess it’s because I wish that instead of offering the residents of this valley a way to get out of it, people like you might suggest a way for them to stay in it.
In short, The Land Couple, thanks but no thanks. We’re not selling, and especially not to you. You see this valley as an opportunity to make a buck; we see it as a place to make a home.