You Invited Them


“I don’t get all the anti-immigrant sentiment in this country. Because this is a country that says this is the greatest country in the world. We’re the best. We’re number one. Then we get upset when people actually show up. But when you advertise something … sometimes people buy it. That’s how it works.”
— Indian-American comedian Hari Kondabolu

Over the years, I’ve opened up in-flight magazines and seen multi-page, color spreads advertising Asheville and western North Carolina as great places to vacation and to build a summer home. Come hike our majestic mountains. Visit our beautiful waterfalls. Tour the fabulous Biltmore Estate. And what better place to retire than the mountains of western North Carolina? Our developers, builders and retailers are anxious to build your dream home for you.

Western North Carolina’s marketing efforts succeeded beyond our wildest dreams. Downtown was reborn. Asheville made top-ten list after top-ten list. People came. Locals made money. Retirees retired here. But newcomers brought their tastes and politics with them. In-migration changed local culture. Some natives are uneasy around people unlike themselves, and resentful. Sure, we wanted their business. But we didn’t want them, you know, in our business.

Hello? You invited them.


  1. RHS says:

    It isn’t just the natives — I hear PLENTY of griping from new commers about other people doing exactly what they did — moving here. They found their Shang-ra-la and then set about trying to build a wall around it to prevent anyone else from moving in as well.

    I would also maintain that the notion that “Some natives are uneasy around people unlike themselves, and resentful” doesn’t cover the entire situation. I encounter lots of unease and discomfort among new commers to natives who, are often dismissed by the new commers as being “inbred Deliverance extras” and other negative stereotypes.

    One does not have to look very far to find local New Jersey Clubs, or local New York groups designed so that people who have moved here from (fill in the blank) can associate with other people who moved here from the same place suggesting a certain “unease and discomfort around people unlike themselves.”

  2. nick s says:

    I’m never entirely comfortable with things that throw around the word “you” without establishing who the “you” is. Plenty of people in the area would be happy if Asheville were more like Leicester or Candler or Fletcher, which is why they moved there and gripe incessantly about the city from outside its limits. Where it becomes a problem is when you have people trying to rejig political structures to create direct conflict between those who opt into what Asheville is (which is an ever-changing thing) and those who opt out.

  3. Yea, unto the Middle Ages:

    “Asheyille’s financial crisis was a classic ”boom and bust.” In the 1920s, land developers, taking note of the lush beauty of the land, talked unabashedly of creating “the Miami Beach of the mountains,” transforming the tranquil region into a haven for Florida retirees…”

    “In 1919, .as the boom began, there were 109 building permits issued; for a value of $800,000. By 1926, the height of the expansion, there were 877 permits issued for a value of $9.3 mil- Population grew from 28,000 in 1920 to over 50,000 in 1930. During the boom, the $50,000 restriction on city indebtedness was lifted, and a phenomenal building program was undertaken — a new $1.5 million high school, a new city hall, courthouse, a new library, city market and police and fire building, the new Beaucatcher tunnel through the mountain, $13 million worth of new streets, a new cemetery, a new water system, a 120-acre golf course and clubhouse, two recreational parks, one with a zoo and swimming pool, riverboats and a garden. The city built a football stadium, a baseball stadium and purchased a team to play in it. By 1929, however, the boom had turned around and the town’s major bank, Central Bank and Trust, was in trouble.”

    And then the Crash. Asheville’s leaders insisted on paying off every dime of their debts. Until 1976, Asheville was making payments to retire that debt. That’s why so much of the beautiful art-deco architecture still exists – there were no ‘Urban Renewal’ grants for Asheville to bulldoze them & put up cheap buildings in their place. Now, decades later, this is a big part of why Asheville is such a cool place to live or visit, and why it’s still going through boom-and-bust development cycles. And it’s a part of why so many folks in the County have this abiding hatred of Asheville going back generations – They should have welched on their debts like the rest of the country did.

    But the real moral of the story is this: Thank the Gods – we can blame it all on those damn Floridians!

  4. Our developers, builders and retailers are anxious to build your dream home for you.

    And what are the four little words that pump up the price of any property or home for sale in Buncombe County?

    “Ten minutes from Asheville.”

    How much would that 20 acre wooded lot next to your house fetch on the open market if you had to say, “Nearest town 50 miles”? Everyone enjoys benefiting from having a cultural, commercial, social and financial center nearby, but howl like a stuck pig if there’s any suggestion of sharing the costs of maintaining the amenities of that center. As that article shows, the City of Asheville doubled in size over the 20’s. Buncombe County grew even faster. The City developed all that infrastructure that benefited the entire County, and made it all the more attractive to those developers and the residents that followed, and all the tax revenue that flowed out of them.

    But when the Crash came, the City had to slash it’s budget to the bone and try to pay off that debt. So over those difficult years, in the words of Nathan Ramsey,

    “the city was using a large percentage of water revenues to retire their depression era debt instead of reinvesting those funds into the water system.”

    See? It was “their” depression era debt. The whole County benefited from having that thriving source of culture, finance, infrastructure, etc., but when the going got tough, the County wanted no part of having to help pay off the debt that was incurred while supporting the County-wide real estate boom. But the City was able to use water revenues to achieve that without their consent, and the people who benefited from living nearby Asheville never forgave them for it. It might have been better if City leaders had blown that money on crack and hookers and bike lanes. Reminding County residents that they depend on a financially sound City whether they like it or not, just drove them nuts.

    The really crazy thing came in 2005, when the County got the second and third ‘Sullivan Acts’ passed. Sullivan I basically required the City to provide water at the same cost as City residents pay, to users in any one of the “Water Districts” which existed in 1933. They were spread across the County just outside Asheville, and when they went bankrupt, the County took them over. The State required Asheville to sell them water essentially at a subsidized rate, since it cost more to deliver water outside the City Limits.

    By the time Sullivan II was passed in 2005, almost all those original “Water District” users had been absorbed into the City of Asheville. So that issue has become moot now, right? Wrong. The County made sure to word Sullivan II differently. Sullivan II basically piggy-backed all subsequent and even future non-City water users onto that original deal, which was intended at the time to only benefit those who lived in the “Water Districts”. Anyone who can attach to the City’s system, no matter how far out into undeveloped Buncombe County, and even people in a whole other County, are now guaranteed subsidized water from the City of Asheville.