The Landed Gentry

estate 0219One year ago today, Lynn and I became landowners. If you want to get all technical about it, we signed papers the day before, because Lynn could only make an afternoon closing and due to banking, we needed to sign on the 20th to get credit for the 21st. But it officially became ours a year ago today.

Of course, the process to becoming part of the landed gentry started much earlier than that. I don’t really remember when we first decided we wanted to be in a single-story house, but we were looking in earnest for much of 2017. Initially we just assumed we’d buy an existing house, but as we and many others have discovered, there isn’t a surfeit of those in Gunnison. There are barely any, as a matter of fact.

(If you start looking around Montrose, you can see builders there have figured it out: every new or newish development we’ve gone through is populated by single-story houses. Gunnison has yet to tap into this market of older homebuyers — maybe because for so long the older population has gravitated toward Grand Junction or points south. Anywhere where winters might be warmer. Which is pretty much anywhere else.)

The notion of building a house coalesced with a lot on Vulcan Street. (I think it’s a street — I’ve always just called it “Vulcan.”) Who wouldn’t want an address on Vulcan? (When they were in Gunnison, Fred and Wendy lived there — I was always quite jealous. Just for the record, though, the street pre-dates Star Trek: all of the roads in the Palisades are named after nearby extinct mining towns, including the sulfurous Vulcan.)

The lot on Vulcan was for sale at a rather affordable price — but the entire lot was 6,000 square feet. Vulcan is an odd place these days: the old half lies in the Palisades and is numbered 5 through 20s; the east side is part of the new Van Tuyl Village and is numbered in the 1100s. Old lots are easily twice the size of new lots, where houses are stacked shoulder by shoulder. And thanks to an inattentive community development director, the highly-traveled Spencer Avenue that fronts Van Tuyl is too narrow, while Vulcan is as wide as a superhighway.

So, with great sadness, we decided against the coolness of a Vulcan address, but that did cause us to start looking in earnest at vacant lots around town. We looked and looked (and looked) at one on a bump-out of Emerald Lane at the west end of Gunnison. It had been for sale for years, and the price had come down substantially.

That part of Gunnison is clearly in the flood plain, although the county map showed this particular lot to be above the 500-year flood mark (I’m not sure how, but that’s what the map says), but there was just something that kept us from saying yes — and then the decision was made for us when someone else bought it.

We looked at lots on the south end of town, but those just seemed more upscale than we are. Every curbside mailbox is ensconced in a stone edifice. And, it turns out, the covenants there require a second story on one’s house.

Then, in August 2017, we saw a notice for lots out in Riverwalk. The prices were the same or lower than the south-end town lots, and four times the size, at an acre or more. Now, Riverwalk does start with a swanky-looking stone wall, akin to mailbox statuary, and there is a covenant telling you your house has to be at least 2,400 square feet (we reached that requirement with the assistance of our garage) — and it is outside city limits.

I’ve never lived outside a city, although Lynn is a veteran of such arrangements. And I’m already learning that country living is more expensive — our sewer bill, for instance, which we’re already paying despite not being hooked up, is three or four times the cost of city sewer service — and it’s the same sewer. County electric rates are almost double city rates. And there’s my commute, which will double (Lynn will move two miles closer to Almont). I will still in theory be able to walk to work, but I will have to find an additional 20 minutes in my morning to manage it. (To which I say: ha!)

We breached the stone wall to find Lynn’s desired proximity to the river and my desired distance from a flood plain, lovely 90-foot cottonwoods, a pond, no college-student neighbors (I’ve had those since the 1970s) — in fact, at this point, very few neighbors at all. The housing styles are eclectic, and while at least one house checks in at 3,500 square feet, the neighborhood so far doesn’t scream ostentation. It might, ultimately: the family trust that purchased over half the vacant lots has heavily marketed this as a second-home sportsman’s paradise, and one neighbor told me the lot next to us was purchased by a Texan who owns many other properties.

But for now it’s a neighborhood (as much as seven completed houses and three in progress can be a neighborhood) of retirees and people who work in Gunnison (and Almont), and it feels very comfortable.

With all that, though, it took us from August until December to decide to buy our lot. We looked at the one next to it, owned by the trust but not officially on the market (the one that now belongs to the multi-propertied Texan). Dusty, our contractor, liked the square shape of the building envelope; Cathie (Audrie’s mom) of the Clarke Agency told us resale value is much better even one lot removed from the highway . . . and we decided we liked the kidney-bean-shaped lot better.

We went under contract on New Year’s Day in 2018 and closed one year ago today. And because it says it right there in the name — Riverwalk Estates — we must be part of the gentry. I mean, we currently own two properties, and I am the majordomo of Carol’s estate while she is out of the county . . . this must be what genteel looks like, eh?

I would guess we are somewhere shy of halfway through the construction process of our new estate. Dusty told me just yesterday that the crawl space is now lined and insulated and is a work of art (I have yet to get down there), and we should be meeting with the electrician sometime next week to discuss where all the electrons will flow.

A sample of the color we selected off a computer monitor is heading toward the stone guys in Montrose (why they don’t already have samples on hand is a mystery to me), so I foresee more travel in my future, and soon we will have to make a decision on exterior trim, because Dusty wants his guys to be painting/staining/sealing that in the house interior before it becomes more civilized.

And that’s where we are today. Of the gentry, but not yet in it. Some Day.

Finding a video to accompany this was harder than it sounds, and here’s where my patience ran out. I was going to go with Motley Crue, but what the hell were they wearing?


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