June 27, 2017

What road for Floyd?

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Fred First, the dean of Floyd County bloggers, raised the inevitable question over the weekend: Are we, as bloggers, leading the county down the path of doom by promoting the lifestyle here?

Sit in a local restaurant on any weekend day and most of the tables will be filled with visitors pouring over real estate brochures, looking for their patch of heaven here in paradise.

Take a walk along any county road and you most likely will find those ominous yellow surveying stakes carving up yet another farm to become housing lots. Head up or down U.S. 221 or Virginia Route 8 and the lights of new homes erected along the tops of ridge lines spoil what was once a pristine view. A Roanoke developer is planning a gated community of 39 25-acre lots in the north part of the county near Bent Mountain.

Is Floyd headed down the one-way road of over-construction, over-population and over-saturation?

Probably. Not so much a question of if but when and how long. More and more city residents seek refuge from the stresses of urban life, thinking they can find it in more bucolic places like Floyd but the influx of city dwellers brings with it the threat of just the kind of life they flee here to avoid.

City residents quickly find life in the country has its shortcomings. It starts with comments like “wouldn’t it be nice if…” Each wants to bring a piece of city life with them. Pretty soon the landscape is dotted with strip malls, Starbucks, chain drug stores and the neon of fast-food franchises. Those who can’t change things fast enough often leave. Studies show 60 percent of city dwellers who seek refuge in the county return to the urban life within five years.

But the threat lies not just with those who move into the county but also from those who have lived here all their lives and run our county government. They see salvation not in preservation but in industrial parks and smokestacks and roads clogged with 18-wheelers hauling the products of an industry they hope will call Floyd home.

That short-sighted view has given us a cavernous shell of a building on Christiansburg Pike, a monstrosity built on spec by a Tidewater developer with a spotty track record. If the building is not fully leased in a few years, the county – and the taxpayers – have to buy it. Potential leases? Not a nibble.

Floyd’s residents stand at a crossroads and they must make a decision soon on which path to take. Either path is risky if residents and government are not willing to make hard decisions and pledge to work together to keep the magic that has drawn so many of us to the county.

But we who promote life in the county must also make sure we tell the whole story. Along with the pretty pictures and pretty prose about an idyllic life in the country, we need to talk about brutal winters, unresponsive county governments, septics that back up, wells that run dry, provincial attitudes and, yes, Ladybugs on the walls and floors.

If we don’t, we only help assure the road to Floyd’s future is rutted and impassable.

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