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The little town of Star, Idaho, had a population of 6,000 in 2014. Now, in 2020, the community has grown to more than 10,000 and may have over 35,000 residents by 2040. Most of the newcomers are escapees from Southern California looking for a simpler life free of high prices, traffic and stress. Now Star is beginning to look like the place from which they escaped.

Idaho is one of the fastest growing states in terms of population. But the growth is considered too fast by many. House values have skyrocketed. Businesses moved in and replaced farms. The unchecked growth is resulting in a loss of the small-town atmosphere that attracted new residents. Businesses enjoy increased revenues, but many of the oldest residents complain about rush-hour traffic, noise and loss of natural spaces.

The same could be said for northwest Arkansas. In the 1970s, I would never have believed the changes that have occurred over the last 45 years. The reason my parents moved to Arkansas was to get away from big city life and be part of a small community. Of course, high school graduates wanted to leave the tiny town and experience big-city excitement! Twenty years later we wanted to come back.

Bella Vista is experiencing changes as well. Once just a summer resort destination, then a retirement community, it is now an incorporated city, but is amenity-driven. This means that a Property Owners Association retains control over parks, lakes, golf courses, and the new biking trails. Changes in monthly fees and costs to use amenities have caused quite a rift within the community. The increased growth of Bentonville and Rogers along with the accompanied rise in housing costs has caused many who want to live in NW Arkansas to cast an eye on the relatively lower costs of Bella Vista. More people cause more problems, but also more opportunities. Finding a balance may be difficult.

My concern for Siloam Springs is that we not lose what makes us a desirable community. More businesses should be welcome but some oversight should be exerted as to the kinds of businesses allowed. Maybe we should not rely entirely on market forces. Siloam Springs, in past years, had several unique dining places and very few fast food or franchised restaurants. These days we seem to get a new fast-and-cheap eatery every week. They compete with local diners that strive to offer healthy, unique, and usually more expensive cuisine. More often than not, the fast-food chains prevail because we choose low price over higher quality. We have seen the elimination of family-owned businesses due to being unable to compete with volume-driven Big Box stores. We get lower prices, sometimes lower quality, and lower customer service.

I sometimes bemoan the fact that those of us who live near or on Sawmill Road, just 3 miles south of town, don't have access to city water and gas lines. But maybe that's a good thing. Relying on wells with sulfur water and propane tanks may just curb any housing developments in my area. Peace and quiet comes at a cost, but it is worth it.

-- Devin Houston is the president/CEO of Houston Enzymes. Send comments or questions to devin.houston@gmail.com. The opinions expressed are those of the author.

Editorial on 01/29/2020

Print Headline: Loss of small towns

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