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Understanding the real estate economy



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Gunnison sees threats east and west

CRESTED BUTTE, Colo. — Water continues to be in the news in the Gunnison Valley, where Crested Butte is located. As they have for decades now, the locals continue to worry about interlopers from both the east and the west.

To the east is Colorado’s Front Range urban corridor, where both farms and cities began outstripping the native water supplies 125 years ago. Whether any water in the Gunnison Valley is legally available to feed the large and growing population of the Front Range remains disputed. Just the same, locals are wary of penetration by those who may be less than resolute in their opposition.

That became apparent when the top candidate for a job as manager of a local water district was the director for a Front Range district that depends upon transmountain diversions. The candidate apparently didn’t share the resident "not one drop" belief, although board members for the Upper Gunnison River Water Conservancy District told the Crested Butte News they are confident that the manager, if hired, will learn to espouse that philosophy.

Meanwhile, to the west, the locals see threats from the down-valley states, particularly Arizona. Scott Balcomb, who represents Colorado in inter-state negotiations, recently told a gathering of Western Slope representatives that what happens downstream in Las Vegas, Los Angeles, and Phoenix could ultimately affect water supplies in the ski and other mountain towns of Colorado.

What do bankers know?

KETCHUM, Idaho — If population and development growth are the big stories of the ski and resort valleys of the West, the profusion of new banks is a startling emblem. While some say that the new banks are simply free enterprise at work, others see speculative fever.

"What we have learned is that bankers are no better at picking investments than the rest of us," writes Tim Ryan of Ketchum in a letter published in the Idaho Mountain Express. "We now have eight banks in our little town, with two or three more on the way. What are these people thinking?"

School enrolment expected to fall

CANMORE, Alberta — Enrolment in public schools in the Bow River Valley, where Banff and Canmore are located, continues to decline.

In the early 1990s the schools began growing briskly, but the 1999 enrolment of 2,645 has now fallen to 2,243. This loss can be explained by growing enrolment at a Catholic school and also at a Francophone school, which together have siphoned 385 students.

But the fuller story is a familiar one in fast-growing resort valleys of the West. A vast majority of newer residents are "empty nesters," many of them baby boomers. "Few people with children can afford to live here, few are moving here, and many are leaving," reports the Rocky Mountain Outlook.