“What is happening in northwest Montana, along with other newly tony areas of the state like Bozeman and the Paradise Valley, has transformed the country since frontier days: New money moves in, older homes get bulldozed.”
Where: It’s a classic dilemma, fight or flight. Launch new income streams to pay excess taxes or move and take your business with you.
So, how does it work?
Let’s start with an example.
Having enjoyed winter and summer vacations in the Eastern Sierra Mountain region it’s hard to ignore the draw to mountain resorts in our upcoming “Guide for Leaving California.”
So, it’s only natural that we’d profile the Rocky Mountain Region for all of those quality-of-life outdoor activities.
- Like skiing and snowboarding in the winter, and
- road and mountain biking,
- horseback riding, and
- whitewater rafting in the summer.
That means, of course, we focus on the four-state region which includes
- Wyoming and
Montana, in turn, is generally divided into two main regions:
Eastern Montana and Western Montana.
The Continental Divide of the Rocky Mountains separates the smaller western portion from the larger eastern portion.
Western Montana is characterized by higher rainfall in some areas, and terrain dominated by mountains, making for picturesque scenery such as that found in Glacier National Park.
Naturally, the Montana board of tourism named the region “Glacier Country” which included the far northwest portions of western Montana.
Glacier National Park and the cities of Missoula, Whitefish, Kalispell, and Cut Bank attract the most visitors in the travel region.
Northwestern Montana has long relied on its natural resources.
Lumber and mining are mainstays of the economy, but those same mountains and forests now draw tourists in great numbers as well.
While Phil Jackson and Kobe Bryant beat the Boston Celtics to claim their 2010 NBA Championship, Kim Murphy wrote about Glacier Country in the Los Angeles Times as part of the “New West.”
She profiled Flathead Valley and neighboring Whitefish.
Lakers coach Phil Jackson has spent most summers of the last 30 years at his vacation home on Flathead Lake.
Two other Californians pulled up stakes and “joined” Phil about a decade later – Dudley and Arthur.
They fell in love with the valley as much as Charles and his brother did growing up there.
Dudley, a California transplant moved from Woodland Hills to Whitefish in 1995.
Arthur inherited an old three-bedroom house on Flathead Lake from his parents and moved there from Chino to retire in 1998.
So, they’re practically native High Country Eagles.
And, as such, they’ve witnessed two decades worth of change in the valley.
Flathead Valley is famous for Flathead Lake and two ski resorts –
- Whitefish Mountain Resort (known formerly as Big Mountain) and
- Blacktail Mountain.
Whitefish is a quaint and cozy resort town in the Flathead Valley.
An eclectic community that offers year round entertainment.
The abundant Rocky Mountain Region attractions that easily come to mind-
- backcountry skiing,
- horseback riding,
- water sports,
- art festivals,
- music venues and a
- vibrant night life.
Dotted with clean alpine lakes and streams, and a wide array of amenities, Whitefish and the surrounding valley, is a great place to serve as a base camp into Glacier-Waterton International Peace Park and the Bob Marshall Wilderness Reserve.
The whole valley was created by millions of years of dramatic glacial activity.
But in 2010 a different story emerged.
One that captured the transformation from an innovation growth community with High Country Eagles to a destination resort filling up with Wireless Resorters.
One like when the sleepy old Cabo San Lucas fishing beach grew into the kind of resort Rafael’s family wanted to exit in favor of the pristine white beaches of Cuba.
“What is happening in northwest Montana, along with other newly tony areas of the state like Bozeman and the Paradise Valley, has transformed the country since frontier days:
New money moves in, older homes get bulldozed.”
Celebrities picked up properties including
- Kiefer Sutherland,
- Julia Roberts,
- John Lithgow,
- Emilio Estevez and
- Charlie Sheen.
“We saw an influx 15 years ago of the Hollywood elite, celebrities and athletes.
People have already been selling their homes because they can’t afford to pay the taxes, and that has been happening since the assessments in 2002.”
They sold out and started moving away about seven or eight years ago, and the real money started moving in right after that.
“Though the out-of-state millionaires probably won’t even think about their tax bills, those who have considered the Flathead home for much of their lives now face the prospect of mortgaging to pay the taxes — if they can — or moving.”
Long-time residents like Charles and his brother, who lived there since way before Phil Jackson bought his lakeside retreat, thought they had seen it all.
“Charles already knew that property values in the Flathead — a new romping ground for Hollywood celebrities, sports stars and international CEOs — far exceeded what they were when he graduated from High School.”
“His 70-year-old house in the tax appraisal in 2002 was worth a stunning $553,900, thanks to its location right on the lake.”
Montana Department of Revenue says Charles’ property is worth $2.64
His brother’s cabin?
Because it sits on 4 acres, is worth $4.2 million.
Charles, who recently retired as president of the Credit Union at the age of 70, just wrote a check for $9,200 for this year’s property taxes.
His brother faces an annual tax bill of $30,462, which exceeds his entire annual income.
Charles can be forgiven if he sometimes feels like roadkill on the highway to the “New West.”
“Charles paid $35,000 for the house in 1967, raised his two boys there, and until lately figured he’d probably die in the same tidy house with the metal awning over the porch, the collection of souvenir spoons and beer steins hanging like sweet memories in the small kitchen.”
Fears of becoming the next Vail, Colorado, don’t sit well, as celebrities and new money move in, forcing property values up and longtime residents out.
“If year-round residents will disappear Whitefish will become another Jackson Hole, Wyoming, or Vail, Colorado, catering to tourists and part-time homeowners – turning into a facade like one big Disneyland.”
Is there a relationship between what you now own on taxes and your ability to pay?
“They tell us, ‘You’re sitting on a couple million dollars; why don’t you sell it?’
But this is where I raised my children.
It’s not for sale.
It’s my home.”
They don’t have any choices.
“What we’re faced with is making a decision.
If you’re living in a state that doesn’t care about their people, and are willing to force out the longtime homeowners, is this really where you want to be?”
It’s a classic dilemma, fight or flight.
Launch new income streams to pay excess taxes or move and take your business with you.
(8) Sit down with your spouse, partner or friends and write up your bucket list of places.
An excerpt from Book Three in “The Knowledge Path Series” dedicated to helping you find the place of your dreams.