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Working-class families can't afford hot Ellicottville

I read with great interest Jane Kwiatkowski's article "Hot Spot" in the Feb. 5 edition of First Sunday. Certainly, no one will deny that Ellicottville has become the "hot spot" for winter enthusiasts as well as those who are looking for a "four-season playground."

The expansion of the skiing industry, no doubt, has had a positive effect on the local economy. From quaint shops in the village to franchised fast-food restaurants, Ellicottville has been transformed from an agricultural/industrial community to a tourist, service-centered community over the past half century, bringing along with it a sort of "renaissance" that many struggling small towns would envy.

However, this transformation and renewed interest in Ellicottville has caused one negative side effect -- the cost of affordable housing in and around the communities of Ellicottville for working-class families. No longer can working-class families call Ellicottville home.

Growing up in the village, I had no problem finding plenty of kids to play with in "our playground." Nowadays, less than 3 percent of the student population at Ellicottville Central School calls the village home. The effect is even felt in communities surrounding Ellicottville, where housing costs in some cases have more than doubled in less than three years.

Working-class families have virtually been priced out of the housing market in and around Ellicottville. This, quite frankly, is one reason why our community is losing one of our most precious assets -- children. With that in mind, will our quality school system be next?

I'm not looking to go back to the "good old days" of yesteryear. The growth and expansion of our community has been mostly positive and good. Nor do I blame our part-timers, for they have allowed Ellicottville to prosper and are an integral part of our community.

What I'm asking for is someone out there to take into consideration our working-class families, who also deserve to call Ellicottville and its surrounding communities home. Can local government officials come together and entice developers to build affordable housing for the working-class families? I've heard of this being done in other "resort-like" communities.

Can something positive and proactive be done? Can we have, as some say, the best of both worlds? I'm not talking about building apartment-style buildings, either; I'm talking about nice subdivisions/neighborhoods where working-class people have an opportunity to raise their family in a great community with great people at an affordable price.

Our school is currently studying the feasibility of merger with the West Valley Central School District. While the conclusions of this study are still being formulated, the fact still remains that the landscape of Ellicottville and its surrounding communities is changing.

If something isn't done soon, our school will look drastically different in the years to come, and with that, Ellicottville's "new playground" will be missing the one ingredient synonymous with play -- children. It would be a shame if that scenario plays out.

Bill Delity, a teacher at Ellicottville Central School, lives in Great Valley.

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