IT SEEMS LIKE EVERY OTHER WEEK I am writing about the latest local outbreak of NIMBYism. I hope you are not tiring of my writing about "Not in My Backyard" because I sure am tiring of having NIMBYs living in mine.
I have neighbors against having neighbors. Their protests and lobbying efforts got your tax dollars and mine to buy them a park along New Hope Creek instead of a new neighborhood. Neighborhoods are fine, apparently, as long as they are in someone else's neighborhood.
I have neighbors against neighborhood schools. (I'm not making this up.) Their protests got the proposed high school at Cornwallis and Erwin roads cancelled. I am sure they would say that they are not against "neighborhood schools," just a particular school on a particular parcel of land -- which coincidentally sits in their backyard.
Now it's the Sunrise Road people on their fourth, by my count, NIMBY campaign of the last three decades. First they opposed the route of I-40, which they wanted near someone else's neighborhood. Happily, for everyone else in North Carolina, they were unsuccessful.
Next they say, "In 1995, BellSouth . . . applied to build a 169-foot tower behind the Wesleyan Church at the corner of Sunrise Rd and I-40, but local residents organized successful efforts to oppose the towers."
Later the Sunrise Coalition opposed a Sunrise Road Habitat for Humanity housing project, greatly delaying it, managing to make it smaller, much more expensive, and thus helping poor people get, someday, what most everybody else in Chapel Hill already has, houses that cost way too much.
Question. If poor people can't live near people who aren't poor, where can they live? Near other poor people? We've tried that; they're called ghettoes.
Now, Sunrise Road is repelling another Attack of the Dreaded Cell Phone Tower, by spawning the Rural Buffer Defense Group which is "made up of the owners of all 10 properties immediately adjoining the Tower site, plus over 20 other families . . . [in the] neighborhood."
I don't want to judge any one individual's motives. They may be pure, but ain't it a coincidence these NIMBY groups are always opposed to things in their own neighborhood -- even when they have, do or will use the service this annoyance may provide. In this respect NIMBY is really I-SELFY, In Somebody Else's Front Yard.
Now understand, the Sunrise Road cell tower opponents are not against cell phones. As their ugly sign next to the proposed cell tower says: "Cell Service? Yes. Ugly cell tower? NO."
Of course, there are explanations for why the group doesn't want to allow a neighboring landowner to lease a space on his 10-acre wooded lot to put a 149-foot cell phone tower for AT&T and other providers which will serve local citizens, including them, service that could have been available for 15 years if not for their earlier opposition.
One argument they offer is that the property immediately adjacent to the tower site is a “Tree Farm whose mature timber is due to be harvested in the near future," thus making the tower more visible. My suggestion is to not cut down the 32 acres of trees. It will become a forest not a farm. Then let your neighbor do what he legally may with his forest. It's his, you know, just like yours is yours.
I don't like telephone and power lines going by my house -- but I do like my neighbors and I like having telephones and electricity. I don't like the road that goes by my house -- but I sure do like that we all can drive our cars where we wish, so I put up with it.
And because I want to be a good neighbor to the Rural Buffer Defense Group, here’s some helpful advice for their upcoming court hearing. My wife, who is an attorney, says so as not to get on the wrong side of the judge, before you enter the courtroom, make sure to turn off your cell phones.
Gary D. Gaddy is, coincidentally, an AT&T cell phone subscriber.
A version of this column was published in the Chapel Hill Herald Thursday August 28, 2009.
Copyright 2009 Gary D. Gaddy