I invite you to envision three houses in Jamestown. While the descriptions that follow are composites, the factual situations are realistic, and fairly common.
All three are large older homes situated in neighborhoods adjoining the village. Each is owned by a couple approaching retirement age. For each couple their home is their single most valuable asset. These couples are contending with the high cost of maintaining an older structure, escalating property taxes, and a decreased need for living space.
The Smiths (all names are fictional) decide that for them the prudent course of action will be to sell their home and use the sale proceeds to acquire a smaller residence in town. The excess will be invested to provide additional retirement income. The Smiths find a buyer, a nice young couple with two children. The former Smith house will now be home to a family new to the island. The purchasers are pleased with the prospect of their young children growing up attending Jamestown’s excellent schools. They foresee their children progressing through the school and getting a superior education. They intend to be active and observant, and make sure that the school maintains high standards. They believe that Jamestown is committed to providing a good education for the town’s children, and intend to hold the town to that commitment.
Mr. and Mrs. Jones have decided to move south to warmer climes. But, they will keep their Jamestown home just in case one of their married children returns here to live. In the meantime, they will supplement their retirement income by renting. They want to maximize income by getting high weekly rents during the peak summer season. During the remainder of the year, they hope to rent to officers participating in Naval War College programs. Failing that, they want tenants who can afford the substantial rent they believe their house should bring. In any event, they intend to seek the maximum rental income their property is capable of generating.
The Browns love their home, and do not want to leave it, or Jamestown. Mrs. Brown is a devoted homemaker, loves to cook, and has a great reputation as a chef. She and her husband decide that the ideal for them would be to operate a bed-and-breakfast. Their large spacious home and grounds will easily accommodate guests. The extra income will allow them to maintain their home in the pristine state of preservation they have always attempted to achieve. They know that they will have to meet a high standard to successfully operate a bed-and-breakfast. They welcome the challenge.
You be the judge. Which of these three situations would create the greatest impact upon Jamestown? Which is likely to produce the best neighbor? In considering these questions, keep in mind all the ways municipal services would be impacted in each scenario.
(Author’s note: This essay, in a slightly different form, was first published by the Jamestown Press more than 16 years ago. Our town is still wrestling with the bed-and-breakfast issue.)