An aside: Could such growth in Watauga and Wilkes realistically mean anything for landowners/developers in Stokes? Thoughts?
A Double Impact: Watauga, Wilkes to reap the benefits of Laurelmor resort
Property values rising quickly, and some leaders worry about longtime residents
By Monte Mitchell in today's Winston-Salem Journal:
FERGUSON — There's no dividing line between Wilkes and Watauga counties in the timberlands where a gated resort of multimillion-dollar homes is planned. But Laurelmor, a 6,000-acre project of Ginn Clubs and Resorts, means different things to the neighboring counties that share a common link with the American pioneer Daniel Boone but have very different recent histories.
Watauga County's economy thrives on the vacation-home market, Appalachian State University and the tourism draw of mountains and cool summers. That demand has driven up the price of housing, and some worry that Laurelmor will drive it up further. Wilkes County, on the other hand, offers less expensive land prices but is struggling to recover from the move of Lowe's Cos. headquarters to Mooresville, the closing of the North Wilkesboro Speedway and the loss of textile and furniture plants.
...Kelvin Byrd, Watauga County's tax assessor, said that the area's gated resorts have tended to be islands unto themselves and don't have much of an effect on property prices elsewhere. Scott Eggers, the chairman of the Watauga Housing Opportunities Group, agrees. He also thinks that the availability of housing is strained for many income groups in Watauga. There are good programs for low-income home buyers, and beautiful homes for millionaires, but he worries about the majority of people who are in between.
"What I think we've done is forced people away from Watauga County to Johnson County (Tenn.), to Caldwell County to Avery," he said. "My larger concern is where are we going to be 10 years from now, 20 years from now, with our plumbers, electricians, teachers, nurses. Where are they going to live? I don't have the answers to that."
Joe Furman, Watauga County's planning director and a member of the Housing Opportunities Group, said that the trend of resorts or seasonal homes spreading across the area could add to the problem. "The values of those is increasing greatly," he said. "I think you're going to see a trend toward more expensive - if you can believe it - seasonal homes."