I knew I had to leave Buxton when I listened to someone at a planning board meeting say that they didn’t want young families moving to town because it would increase school taxes.

At the time I was house-hunting, and if I had found something affordable in Buxton, I would have certainly considered staying there. After all, it’s the only hometown I’ve ever known. My parents briefly lived in Scarborough when I was born, but by the time I was 18 months old, we had moved to Buxton and put our roots down there.

As if the outrageous Buxton home prices didn’t make me feel unwelcome enough, I’m getting to the time in my life where I have to consider buying a home and putting down roots and having children, and I don’t want to live anywhere where my potential children are considered a burden rather than a gift and an opportunity.

I’ve enjoyed my term on Buxton’s Planning Board, and I’d recommend getting involved in your town’s planning board to just about anyone. It’s great for getting to know a place, or if you’re an engineering/architecture/numbers nerd, or if you like gossip and drama but not in your personal life. But every time someone wants to build more than one house at a time, you’re going to have to deal with the neighbors yelling at you that you are personally responsible for turning this section of Maine into Massachusetts. Funny thing is, nobody ever complains about a subdivision being built across town from them. Only when it’s within eyesight.

That’s not to say that there aren’t legitimate concerns about new buildings or development. The trick is to look for specificity. If a citizen has a concern about increased traffic at a particular intersection, or is worried about the effect of a bunch of new wells on the local water table because they recently ran dry, local boards love to hear about that sort of stuff. We can come up with a plan to figure out if the concern is warranted, like performing a water study or adding additional traffic signage.

When people start talking about vague concepts like “character,” you know that’s a red flag for NIMBYism. A neighborhood doesn’t have “character” in and of itself. It can have prevailing architectural style (anything but brutalism is usually fine), but the character of a neighborhood is the people who live in it.

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I’ve heard so many residents say that they want their children and grandchildren to be able to live and grow up in Buxton. But right now, that’s only going to be feasible for families who own 10 or 15 acres of land and can peel off a lot and give it to their children. But for families who don’t have a large nest egg of land, it’s highly unlikely. And the obsession with Buxton’s rural character is why.

And I get it, to an extent. I love rural Maine! Probably more than most people! My dog, Janey, loves nothing more than running zoomies in huge circles around empty fields, like a one-puppy hurricane. But the town of Buxton has an awful lot of random empty fields that we could stand to put some houses in without turning the whole town into Massachusetts (something I once heard a resident say at a planning board meeting). I once tweeted about Buxton’s many conveniently empty fields and someone on the internet got mad at me and claimed they were all productive hayfields and therefore important small businesses. Ma’am, please. I’m from Buxton. I know a hayfield when I see one.

Would I be sad if the empty field next door turned into an apartment building? Sure. Would I be sad enough to attempt to stop it from happening? No. I’ve been lucky enough to find an affordable home. I don’t want to try to stop other people from striking the same gold.

Young families will still move to Buxton. But they won’t be ed techs and secretaries like my family. They’ll be doctors and lawyers and bankers and tech workers, so many tech workers – because those are the sort of people who can afford to buy a $450,000 home. And longtime Buxtonians will grumble about how the new people are changing the town. About how regular working-class folks used to be able to buy a house in Buxton. But I don’t know how many of them will look in the mirror and realize that one of the reasons Buxton has become unaffordable is because of current homeowners and their short-sighted obsession with their own property’s values. Take a look at Buxton on any real estate websites. See how many houses are under a quarter of a million dollars.

Buxton is not the only town in Maine struggling with these sorts of issues. Not by a long shot. But it’s the only town in Maine that qualifies as my hometown. It has made me who I am. (Stubborn, independent, self-reliant.) And no matter where I go or how long I live elsewhere, I will always be From Buxton.

Victoria Hugo-Vidal is a Maine millennial. She can be contacted at:
[email protected]
Twitter: @mainemillennial


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