Saturday, May 19, 2018

Thunder , lightning, and rain. The Hordes. Cartoon Update.

Comfortable enough inside, but it's "rain forest" time outside.  Muggy,  hot, with strong thundershowers coming through today.   Not a day when you really want to go down off the mountain, or try to work outside.

I've got some paperwork to do,and I've spent some time on it, but my interest has waned and I've put it aside for awhile.  Instead, I'm listening to Pandora Radio and drinking some coffee. It's that kind of day.

A friend sent me this article from the Wall Street Journal.  It pretty well encapsulates the situation up here in the North Georgia Mountains, without addressing the most recent wave of new arrivals, but it's still interesting.

The Wall Street Journal

BLUE RIDGE, Ga.—When former New Yorker Marty Stefanelli and his wife contemplated retirement, they didn’t know where to look until a visit to this Appalachian mountain town last year.

“We bought a house that week,” Mr. Stefanelli said. “I need to find time to wind down, and Blue Ridge forces you to wind down.”

For the 57-year-old Mr. Stefanelli, the area’s draws included moderate weather, a lack of traffic and low costs on everything from property prices to restaurant bills to taxes.

The twist is that the Stefanellis weren’t moving from New York but rather from West Palm Beach, Fla., part of a movement known as “halfbacks”—northern transplants to Florida who are retiring in mountain communities of western North Carolina, northern Georgia and eastern Tennessee. These retirees are reshaping local economies, boosting everything from tax revenues to restaurant receipts to sales of electric chair lifts for the elderly. Along the way, they are chafing locals who say the migration is pricing them out of homes and bringing in a sort of big-city brusqueness.

Mr. Stefanelli says he pays about $3,000 in taxes a year for his Georgia house, compared with about $20,000 for his home in Florida. He also maintains a home in New York that costs him about $30,000 a year in taxes. He plans to make Georgia his main residence in a few years.

“I bought a pickup to fit in,” he said.

The halfback phenomenon—so named because the retirees are said to be moving roughly halfway back up north—was well under way by the early 2000s before coming to a halt during the recession. For several years afterward, many retirees found themselves unable to sell their Florida homes, and property values in many Appalachian areas plummeted.

But the trend has come back, according to federal data, as many of the nation’s 74 million baby boomers move for retirement.

Census data show that from 2010 to 2017, net migration to retirement-destination counties in Appalachian regions of Georgia, North Carolina and Tennessee increased 169%, the same percentage of growth for retirement destinations in Florida, according to Hamilton Lombard, a University of Virginia demographer who has tracked the halfback phenomenon. During the same period, net migration to all U.S. retirement-destination counties increased 67%.

In Georgia, many of the mountain counties experienced an increase in the 65-and-older population, including Blue Ridge’s Fannin County, up to 27% in 2016 from 22% in 2010, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Net migration to retirement-destination Appalachian counties in Georgia, North Carolina and Tennessee has risen steadily from about 10,000 in 2011 to more than 46,000 in 2017, census data show. The U.S. Agriculture Department designates counties as “retirement destinations” if their population 60 and older grew by 15% or more within a decade due to net migration.

Rebecca Tippett, a chief demographer at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill’s Carolina Population Center, said that postrecession, retirees are once again playing a large role in western North Carolina’s growth. “We’ve seen a major return to previous migration levels,” she said.

In Blue Ridge, about 75 miles north of Atlanta’s downtown, it’s now common to see Florida license plates in a grocery store parking lot, hear New York accents as a couple walks by or see older men on a bench wearing Chicago Cubs baseball caps. Realtor Brian White, who sold the Stefanellis their mountain home, said at least three-quarters of his clients come from Florida, most originally came from northern states.

Ken Brenneman, owner of Blue Jeans Pizza, said that when the restaurant shows football games in the fall, customers overwhelmingly cheer for Philadelphia, Pittsburgh or New England. Many Florida investors have come up to scout for residential and commercial property, he said.

“This place is not Sleepy Hollow anymore,” he said.

Nathan Fitts, a local real-estate agent and newly elected city councilman, said the influx has helped raise tax revenue and revive the local economy.

Bret Benson, owner of Scooters & More Factory Outlet in Blue Ridge, said business for scooters and installing lifts for elderly clients was up more than 20% last year from the level five years ago. And James Nichols, co-owner of Love Those Mountains Realty in Ellijay, Ga., said, “the halfback process is very much in motion again,” with about 75% of their sales to retirees coming up from Florida. Sales are booming, he said.

The median home sales price in Fannin County last year jumped 75% from 2012 to $250,000, according to Attom Data Solutions, an Irvine, Calif., property-data provider. During the same period, the U.S. median home sales price rose 51%, to $236,000.

Long Island-raised Mike Galinski, owner of a semiconductor company who is also a real-estate developer in Florida, bought property in Fannin County after the recession. He is building restaurants and plans to add homes in and around McCaysville, a town on the Tennessee border.

“The upside is there,” said Mr. Galinski, who also built a home for himself in the area.

But increased development has created its own problems, including extra traffic and strained water infrastructure, as well as a higher demand for medical services. When a developer proposed recently to building a 3 1/2-story building in Blue Ridge, many complained it was “a skyscraper,” said Mr. Fitts, the real-estate agent.

Jeremy Jones, a 34 year-old auto mechanic whose family has lived in Fannin County for four generations, complained that the influx has driven up rents making it tough for locals.

“This used to be a very tightknit community, the Bible Belt. Now it’s about money,” he said. “Us, the regular people who are here, are struggling.”

Terry Stonecipher, a 43-year-old mechanic who has lived in the area most of his life, said area residents have bristled at some of the newcomers. “People that have no manners,” he said. “Go back where you came from.”

Branco Update:

Thought for the Day:


  1. Nothing like people to #!%^$ a nice place is there.

    1. That's so true. When I moved up here, I went to extreme lengths to do as little damage to the mountain as I could. That's one reason why it's so difficult to get in and out of here. But now, they come in and just clear cut the whole mountainside, then build "rich people" houses on one acre lots. They used to level the mountain tops and build on that, but now there's a law against that.

      Tearing down the woods is just one facet of what's going on here....

  2. Don't really understand the half-way back mentality. Move to Florida because the taxes are less, and the weather is nice almost year round. Golf courses, beaches, shuffleboard with folks your own age. So they are now heading for the mountains. Go back to shoveling snow in the winter? Huh?

    Harry I do wonder sometimes what the baby boomers are thinking. There are some that are never content with anything. They move somewhere with very few services and then they complain some more. --Troy

    1. Troy, some of these people are year round, but the vast majority of them come up here in late summer, and stay through the fall. Then they go back to Florida for the winter.

      The one's who stay year round have a big influence on the county government. They go to the commissioners meetings, and they are vocal. They do things like closing the "family" park bike trails so they could be used exclusively like for "senior walking paths."

      Lots of the one's who come up here saying they are going to live here year round, wind up trying to stay through the first winter and after that, they go back to a place in Florida for that part of the year. Most of them live on the lake, or in special developments for well off people , where the power never goes out....

  3. Hey Harry,


    'Harry, You and your wife are truly 'Based' (check the urban dictionary on what 'Based' means) 'Conservatives that like you guys are needed in this world.
    I have to agree with the kids and in their 20's and 30's that I communicate with on Discord and on the Alt Right fringe on YouTube.
    Most Baby Boomers are a big, big part of what is ruining this country. Most of the hippes, Jane Fonda, fruits, nuts and flakes like Governor Jerry Brown in California that were the products of the greatest generation have become the worst generation in American history.
    The kids in their 20's and 30's are seeing their own financial futures robbed, stolen from them with the baby boomers gutting Social Security, getting involved in endless wars overseas. 'Out of control government spending, out of control taxes, welfare etc, etc,
    'Too be frankly honest the vitriolic is so vile that many want to see the baby boomers hurry and die from old age so the younger generations can start to attempt to repair the financial damage so their will be something for them to retire on. Most believe their will be no Social Security left decades from now and they are forced to pay a tax to support the boomers since they vote in overwhelming numbers to support democrats and 'Rhino Republicans'
    It is refreshing to hear the unrestricted talk from 'Gen Z' and a few Millenials on what the they the future will be like and most of what I hear is very 'Dysentopian' thanks to the unrestricted greed of baby boomers.
    Myself, I am early Gen X. My generation will witness more of the downfall and the Gen Z's will get the full brunt of it. One item of note. You would surprised at how conservative 'Gen Z' is. Its a refreshing change that gives me an inkling of hope.

    its hot, humid and windy as hell down here. We are gearing up for another hurricane season. The oil field is starting to pick back up again since the price of oil is cranking back up. Lots of empty tankers coming in and leaving full of oil heading for Europe, etc. There are two more Natural Gas facilities being built on the Gulf Coast to freeze and liquidfy natural gas and pump it onto special tankers. Its good to know that 'good ole fashioned southern know how' has made it to where we can under cut the Russians on LNG and sell to Europe and still make a nice profit.

    1. It does seem like the current crop of movers and shakers are seriously flawed. I don't know what caused it, but the facts are there for anyone to look at.

      LNG facilities are dangerous as hell. I'm glad to see us utilizing that energy source, but I sure wouldn't want to live anywhere near one of those LNG plants!

      I hope you get through this hurricane season unscathed. I hope we do, too. I don't need another week in the dark.

  4. Same thing happened to the west side of Oregon when all the Kalifornians moved in and drove home prices sky high. The bad part is that they brought their Communist politics with them. Would you rather have halfbacks or Muzzies, Harry? It might get up to 70 degrees here today with 10% humidity.

    1. Alas, we have the folks from Florida, with all their idiosyncrasies, and we also have the Moslems, inner city denizens, Koreans, Chinese, Vietnamese, et al.

      When people with a lot of money move en masse into a region, the apple cart gets upset. That's what is happening here, and the negative aspects are exacerbated by our suddenly becoming a "dumping grounds" for the wretched refuse.

  5. Same thing happened here starting in the late 80s, and they still keep coming today. All the slobs from NY, CT and Massachusetts moved up here, bought land and built humongous 10K sq foot mansions with the same money that in NY would only buy a 400 sq foot apartment. Then they decided to become "involved in the community" and demanded "improvements" to the schools and voted for the towns rack up ridiculous loans to pay for it all. Taxes went through the roof, and every year they want to hire a new assistant to the assistant but wiper they want another million added to the budget. The local working stiffs are taxed out of the place. Today the school budget in our town is 47 million dollars to indoctrinate less than seven hundred snot-noses. When I bought this 640 sq foot shack thirteen years ago I was paying under a thousand $ a year in property tax. Today I am well above three grand, and there is no sign of the trend letting up. After thirty five years of swinging a hammer my body is worn out and broken and I don't have the strength to earn as much as I did thirteen years ago. But every time some fancy mass-hole moves up here and dumps his brats in to the schools they hire another assistant but wiper and tell me to shut up when I complain about it at town meeting. I don't know how much longer I can hold out.

    1. Similar here. Every year our new residents vote in a new "special" sales tax, that is then spent on a fine arts center or something of that ilk. Perhaps five percent of the community derives any benefit from it, but we all pay for it at the checkout register. Property taxes have gone up so much that most of the remaining raw land has been sold to developers, because the owners couldn't afford to pay. We don't mind paying for things we can all use, like the cannery, the farmer's market, and the parks. But more and more, the money goes for fancy golf courses, and a chamber of commerce building with imported Italian marble bathroom counters and bronze fittings.

      Since the people who run the county are making huge sums of money off these people, the working class residents are just SOL. (Sh#t out of luck.)

  6. I live just far enough out in the sticks that few big city people buy up here. Those that do, don't live year round so the town meetings are still mostly the old families.

    I do know people who do the half-back thing. Never made much sense to me, but to each their own.

    On thing I notice about communities where outsides start buying property. The first wave is generally welcomed. They buy property that no one else is buying and only use it as vacation property. They inject money into an area, but they don't use a lot of services. Later, the next wave has people moving in full time. Then they demand services and better schools for the kids. The locals can either adapt or move, as things never go back to the way they were. It's called Capitalism and Democracy. It also destroys the old communities that were built over generations.

    Right now my area is still mostly first wave, but I watch what's going on. Winter is harsh, so you'd think that would keep people away. We do see a few who move here for winter sports, so you never know.

    Personally, I like living on a boat in the winter. Minimal impact on the environment, no property taxes to pay, and you can up anchor and move on at a moment's notice.

    1. I'd agree with your assessment. I hate to see the results of this trend, though. The changes that have taken place here have been a mixed bag. Better medical care, more stores. Higher taxes, an influx of rude, obnoxious people, the forest getting cut down to build glass and chrome monstrosities. Much higher crime, but that's associated with the arrival of "ethnics" and "refugees" . Not a lot we can do about it.

  7. Similar thing here. Folks move down here from Kansas City so they can "live in the country" then build a house that looks like it belongs in a very well to do suburb and complain about how the gravel roads are messing up the Mercedes.

  8. That's how it is here. We have the additional problem that almost all these affluent people coming in are very old. They tend to want things run just for them, and to hell with everybody else.

  9. I have a classmate from CA. who retied to NC. They are so much happier in NC. The home they bought has more room and paid half the value of their home they sold in CA. Funny part is they are like 60 miles give or take from my niece and her husband in NC

  10. Hey Harry,


    Here's a new one.

    I guess the Swiss are getting nervous.

    I will comment more about it when I have more time.