Blog Alert: turns bitter against Floridians?

Typically, a visit to local writer Huw Richardson’s blog reveals musings on a decidedly mystical and spiritual theme. (Except perhaps, for the occasional foray into cooking.) Richardson is typically a broad-minded thinker on such topics, and seems willing to accept wisdom from any number of faiths, no matter where they originate. Except, perhaps, from Florida.

No, Richardson hasn’t drawn a line in the sand against Scientology (not that we’re aware of at least). A post on his blog earlier today reveals that, when it comes to the flood of newly arrived transplants to the area, he may be growing tired of turning the other cheek.

“I’ve decided I need a new t-shirt,” writes Richardson. “And maybe buttons and bumper stickers and even coffee mugs.” Below is a parody of the popular “AVL” window decals, altered to resemble a “No Smoking” sign, and ringed with the words “Go Back To Florida.” And even that vitriolic statement isn’t enough for the normally forgiving blogger. “Maybe I should add something about “Damn Yankees”… or “Take yer !@#@$ ‘Development’, ‘Driving’ and ‘Service Industry’ with you.”

What does this speak to about our local character when even turns bitter on the changes in the area? Can’t we all just get along?

We have some clever readers, and we’d welcome some solid ideas on how to keep Asheville’s culture both locally oriented and newcomer-friendly. Post your thoughts in the comments field below. We’re looking for serious insight here, so anti-newcomer posts (there are many such threads already on our site) will not be approved. Think solution, not complaint!

—Steve Shanafelt


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19 thoughts on “Blog Alert: turns bitter against Floridians?

  1. How about we get to “jump them in” like a street gang? It would add to the unique culture, all the while letting the locals get some frustrations out?

  2. hauntedheadnc

    Probably the easiest solution would be to require new developments to be mixed-income developments, if not mixed-use. Combining both of those aspects would be best, however.

    Envision the Ellington as a mixed-income project. I have absolutely no problem with downtown development, nor with high-rise development because I’d rather people be living downtown than up on the mountainsides where the woods are now. That being said, imagine an Ellington building where Biff Buffington-Muffington-Ditherington IV and his lovely wife Muffy, recently relocated from Buckhead, can have their top-floor penthouse, while a more typical Asheville character, Sunflower Moonblossom Peace Love World-Understanding Jones-Jakubowski can have her affordable studio apartment down on the 5th floor.

    Making new development more inclusive as opposed to exclusive will go a long way toward allowing and even encouraging growth while providing space for people who are not among the country club set. The key will be getting Asheville to realize that growth is coming like it or not and the only thing we can do is demand and legislate better growth, because the dream of stopping growth completely is just idiotic and unrealistic. Better growth, to my mind, means growth that doesn’t throw up barriers to interaction, growth that doesn’t waste forest- and farmland (ie, downtown growth), and growth that lets more people in without overloading roads and infrastructure — again, dense, walkable, downtown growth.

    So to sum it up, put people in big downtown buildings where they can walk to get about their daily lives and put them in mixed-income buildings where everyone from the peasants to the gentry can find a home. That kind of growth will let Asheville take in many thousands of people without compromising the quality of life that’s drawing everyone here in the first place.

  3. Huw Richardson

    First off, I disagree with the general premise: “growth is coming like it or not and the only thing we can do is demand and legislate better growth”

    If by growth you mean insane development where people take advantage of local hospitality (and 6-month residency tax laws) to the point of driving the locals crazy, that doesn’t have to come. But it doesn’t have to be legislated: it takes a change of heart. That kind of growth comes because of our greed: individual, business and civic. We sell out. We’re loosing our “community” because we’ve already lost the community spirit that makes that happen.

    Every time some farmer with a 100 acres gives it up for a quick million – so the developer can make 100 times that – the farmer has sold out and we all get to pay the extra price. Every time the local gov’t wants to improve its tax base by importing property taxes instead of industry because “tourism” wants rich people and not working class people, they sell out and the rest of us have to pay the price.

    If by growth you mean big buildings down town, personally, I’m all for that. The ideas of Biff, Buffy and Moonbeam all being able to afford to live – and wanting to live – in the same building, in the same town is wonderful. But I don’t think that’s the same thing as mountainsides filed with second retirement homes. High density urban areas are good: the sprawl we’re allowing to eat up WNC… not so much.

  4. Marc & Bugg: Funny enough guys, but let’s really try to keep this discussion about serious ideas on making our local community work. We can trash talk new arrivals all day long, but it’s not going to fix anything. I’d like to hear reasonable ideas about how to keep our community spirit without alienating people who actually want to be a part of it.

  5. Orbit DVD

    I apologize to Sunflower.

    On topic, I’m surprised on how fast newcomers hate other people moving in here. I’ve talked to some folks that have been here as little as six months and they are already complaining like 10th generation locals.

    We need to get behind responsible high density housing. People are more than willing to live in them and if they are affordable we will be able to handle the influx a little better.


  6. Screwy Hoolie

    I think that when we meet new arrivals, we ought to do our level best to help them understand that our Asheville values of inclusivity, civic involvement, and supporting the local economy are central to maintaining our way of life here.

  7. Screwy: Really? Is that what Asheville is about? I think that’s what people would like to think that it’s about, but it’s not.

  8. Screwy Hoolie


    I’d hate to think what you believe Asheville’s values to be. You’ve got quite a dark vision that doesn’t comport with the Asheville I see. I tend to think the best of people until they prove otherwise.

  9. Huw Richardson

    “inclusivity, civic involvement, and supporting the local economy ”

    Where is this city? I’d LOVE to live there. I’ve seen a small handful folks who might fit this mould. I’ve seen others who fit part of it… I had no idea these were our values. Truth is, I know some people everywhere who fit that mould – SF, NYC, Atlanta, Seattle, Columbus, GA, Hamilton, Ontario. But I don’t know of a city that offers them as “our values”.

    Most folks are just trying to get by in whatever location they find themselves.

    I’m down with what Marc points out – I’m a newcomer, myself. That’s why, to be certain, I’m not bitter about *newcomers*. I can’t spot a newcomer. I’ve only lived here since ‘03 myself. I came here for the culture – SF lite – and while I might make fun of it once in a while, I came to live in it, not to change or ignore it.

    I’m talking about people who still have Florida on their license plates and, as the AC-T recently put it, will live here for 5 months and 29 days to avoid paying taxes.

  10. Screwy: While I agree with you in theory, in reality I think that people are greedy and spiteful. It’s sad but true. If Asheville’s “spirit” was what you say it was, we wouldn’t have the issues we have as a city right now, our country wouldn’t have more prisoners than any other country on the planet, and that guy from the Carriage Park television commercials would be the only homeless and destitute person on the street. But we live in a world where people aren’t that altruistic.

    Maybe that is what this little town is about; theory and reality. We do a great job of selling everyone on the theory of a quaint little mountain town that has the best parts of New York City included, so that makes people want to move here, all of the sudden, they get here and they see the reality; high property taxes, drunk spotty gutter punks bumming change, and a working class that can barely keep there head above water. All of the sudden they realize that this isn’t what it’s cracked up to be, and so they decide to bring a few of the amenities that they missed in Florida, New York, or Georgia to the town. You bring them here with Tupelo Honey, and you keep them here with Atlanta Bread Company.

    But then again, what do I know? I’m just one of the charming people that helps people fall in love with the town, and then when they get here I’m just the backwoods rube that is standing in the way of their gated community and car dealership.

  11. i’d say were just screwed. we all know it. it happened to boulder, burlington, santa fe, and a million other places. we’ve known its been coming, and now its here. oh well, it was fun while it lasted.

    the thing is, the asheville i fell in love with was magical, cheap, abundant, and friendly. and although the magic is eternal, the cheap part is waaaaay over. and that is where a good deal of frustration from us ‘second wave locals’ or whatever comes from. rent used to be cheap. food used to be cheap. (and there used to be a lot more good dumpsters) remember when there were good street musiscians downtown all the time? or when you recognized (if not knew) most of the people downtwon on a given day? now, it’s like the mall, and half of florida (re: the people most of us came here to get away from) are walking around downtown on any given day. WTF?

    i mean, i dont expect the changes to not come. but it might help the new folks along in their understanding if they knew some of the reasons why the people who came here who made it cool for them to come here came here.

    my question, where the hell do we go when we can no longer afford here?

  12. Perhaps it would help if we identified the specific things that are keeping the actual Asheville from becoming the “Ideal Asheville” we’re all hungering for. Here are some examples:

    1. Fairly priced, safe, well-maintained, reasonably comfortable housing within walking distance of downtown.

    2. A centrally located music venue, coffee house and bar that exists specifically to cater to local interests. (Not that I’m nostalgic for Vincent’s Ear or anything.)

    3. A persuasive, well-organized and decently funded citizen’s group who is willing to fight for the concerns of those who have lived in the area for a significant period of time. This group would be willing to take developers, Council or Commission to court to get their concerns addressed. This includes: the African-Americans who were shoved out of Montford and other areas, displaced rural tenants, working class families and businesses that have been “gentrified” out of their markets.

    4. Organized, sustainable cultural projects that exist solely for the good of the community. URTV, the Montford Park Players and the Asheville Area Arts Council are good examples of this.

    5. A “gentrification awareness task force” that seeks to educate people specifically about such things as lease agreements, how to keep their business community oriented, and some examples of what has happened in “hip” cities that didn’t make some effort to preserve their local flavor (Aspen), as well as education from cities that have (Austin).

    6. A group that specifically and knowledgeably seeks to make Asheville’s economic infrastructure suitable for the kind of lifestyle we’d like our citizens to have. Are we hoping to have significant tech and media sectors? Fine. Let’s create city where these people would want to live and work, rather than a town based on tourist-oriented boutiques and flipping houses. Right now, it seems like several groups are making progress on this front, but it would be nice to see a cohesive vision followed by concrete and realistic steps to make it happen.

    Of course, these are just thoughts. Other insights?

  13. claire love

    I just moved here from, gasp!, no, not Florida, but Flagstaff AZ and I have to say you guys have got it good here. I hear so many complaints about unaffordable housing, but let’s compare the numbers shall we. Flagstaff has a median home price (last time I checked) of 350,000, compared to Asheville’s median of 172,000. And let me tell you that income is no better in Flagstaff than in Asheville. Asheville is still affordable, as far as I can see. What made Flag’s costs so high was being landlocked by National Forest, thus limiting development, not to mention those pesky Californians driving up home prices (the west coase equivilant of Floridians). From a psychology perspective, there is a human tendency to find a scapegoat (the other) and identify them as the problem, and direct all one’s anger at THEM, siting them as the source of all evil, and then feeling damn good about one’s own self. Coming to look at this very phenomena is one source of solution. For in creating an us versus them dynamic in one’s own mind, limits the opportunity to integrate and form creative solutions. Keep in mind that vast amount of talent that comes with those new Florida transplants.

  14. random orbit sandy

    This is a fascinating discussion. The citizens of Asheville need to have a civic (and civil) dialogue around two key questions: “What is the future Asheville to be?” and “How do we get there?” Because of the multiple perspectives of its citizenry, this can be a messy process. Asheville isn’t the first city to face these issues, so here are a few guiding principles for a sustainable, vibrant, authentic city in the 21st century:

    1. Pay attention to the physical planning. Hauntedhead NC has nailed it. Physical planning should reflect how people actually use the public space, and should facilitate lots of elbow-to-elbow contact between different types of people. This includes age, socio-economic status and racial diversity. Inclusivity and tolerance are important characteristics of cities that are thriving in a knowledge/creative economy.

    2. Allow space for “new young things”- young people, entrepreneurs, innovation and creativity. This is absolutely crucial. Without a civic focus on this group of people and their needs for affordable places to do their thing, a place becomes boring very quickly. The 24/7 activity on streets-eyes on the streets at different times of the day- is the lifeblood of both the economy and the civic life.

    3. Watch the cultural insularity. Sure, it’s easier to gripe about people from away, but providing opportunities for people to quickly plug into the local social networks and community dynamics is essential. For Asheville to thrive, economically, the region needs a steady influx of ideas and a certain population that “stays put”.

    4. There are fundamental differences between growth and community development. Growth is the big/better mentality. Development is the “go wide, go deep” approach that allows for development of social/civic skills and processes for its citizens. Steve’s point about a citizens advocacy group is important because, historically, all cities have groups which have been marginalized in development discussions/processes. A better option would be to advocate for/support/educate these citizens to be able to advocate for themselves. A Civic education. The diversity of voices at the table is key during community development processes. As James McKnight says: “A weak community is where people can’t or won’t give their gifts.”

    No one person, or stakeholder group, has all the answers. It is going to take strong leadership, a great deal of citizen involvement, for a shared vision to be articulated and acted upon. Asheville is truly an amazing city. The only constant is change, and the citizens of Asheville have the opportunity to be in the driver’s seat, directing the future they want, or to sit back and let things happen, griping about how “those other people” have screwed the place. The cities which will thrive in the next decade are going to be the ones which maintain their authenticity, are inclusive/tolerant, grow their entrepreneurial pipeline of knowledge/creative enterprises and protect the environment. What an exciting time.

  15. i kinda like jason’s idea about jumping people in.


    there is a lot of merit to the idea if you just think about it.

    it could contribute to a stronger sense of community, and, as bugg stated, allow us ‘locals’ to get out some frustration in a healthy, constructive way.

    we could even charge people to let us beat them up. we could make it a spirituality conference kind of thing at earthfare or namaste or somehitng.

    good idea, jason

  16. Troutman

    (Just some background first: I lived in Asheville for a few years in the mid 90’s and loved it. My wife and I had to move after our first child was born so that she could stay home permanently and raise the kids, which we couldn’t do on my paycheck alone at the time. I now live in Florida (but will never consider myself a Floridian after being born and raised in the Midwest (please hold your fire:).

    When I lived in Asheville it seemed that many people who moved to the area at that time (including myself) were drawn for their love of the outdoors (they were active hikers, kayakers, flyfishermen, hunters, etc.) They weren’t looking for exclusive resorts, fine dining, gated neighborhoods, or mansions at the top of the mountain. They just wanted to live, raise a family, enjoy the outdoors and “fit in”.

    Somewhere along the line, it seems like the focus shifted. It soon became a status symbol to own a second home in the “in-place”. Instead of drawing people who want to move there for the mountains and the outdoors the marketing shifted to offer exclusive resort communities and gated neighborhoods so people can isolate themselves in luxury and ejoy the mountains by tearing the top off of one and living on it. I get about two fliers a week in the mail now with these mountaintop living advertisements. Maybe the real issue is not the number of people moving to the region but the type of people drawn by the marketing cmpaigns.

    Unless the County or City takes a stand against rampant sprawl (or someone can keep the post office from mailing all of thos fliers) than I am afraid that Florida is going to do to Western North Carolina what New York did to Florida. Growth is definitly coming I just hope the planners do a better job of managing it than they have done down here.

    As for me, I just got back from vacation there but no one probably noticed since I was miles off an old logging road and knee deep in a river with the brown and rainbow trout. Thats about all the advertisement anyone should need if they really want to live “in the mountains” instead of on the top of them.

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