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Advice for Small-Town MT – Prepare for an Invasion

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September 10, 2007

Bozeman, MT – Baby boomers are looking for the next great place to live, and small towns in the West are on the preferred list, according to an expert tracking growth patterns. Whitman College environmental studies professor Don Snow says, in the face of this influx, communities need to protect what they value most.

"People don't come to Bozeman because of agriculture. They come to Bozeman because of a different kind of natural resource that's 'atmospheric.'"

Snow explains developers like to cater to baby boomers with "view homes" and golf courses; the kinds of amenities that can lead to rising real estate values, which squeeze out the locals.

"If you allow the surroundings to be filled with willy-nilly developments, you can destroy the very thing that is the principal attraction."

A new word, "rurbia," has been coined to describe the rise of rural suburbs. Snow has been visiting small towns throughout the West to talk with residents about how to handle unexpected growth, and how to identify whether the town is likely to be "discovered" as a retirement hot spot. And just in time -- about 78 million baby boomers are said to be looking for new homes for retirement, or as second homes.

Deborah Smith/John Robinson, Public News Service - MT