Friday, April 9, 2010

Nimbies on the loose

From the 12 April 2010 Greater Niagara Newspapers


By Bob Confer

Six years ago we put serious thought into expanding our North Tonawanda facility. Prior to finding a warehouse in Wheatfield we spent a considerable amount of time and money on engineering and the permitting process in regard to the expansion of our headquarters. Following one of the numerous council meetings a city resident came up to my father and said, “I wouldn’t care at all if you and your employees left town.”

That’s a pretty shocking statement, especially in North Tonawanda where there are so few large employers in what was once a manufacturing boomtown. You would think that people would love to have an employer as a part of their community. Sadly, that’s not always the case. Not in NT. Not in any city or town, regardless of size. Fortunately, in most situations, it’s only a minority of residents who decry the arrival or expansion of a corporation. You’ll typically find that a vast majority of people are tickled pink to see construction, jobs, and tax revenues coming to their neighborhood.

But, it’s always the small band of naysayers - the nimbies - who ruin it for everyone, businesses or residents alike, by delaying and even preventing development. The practitioners of NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) attack new projects with vigor in public and the courtrooms, even those that have been intelligently and smartly done so as to minimize the impact on the environment and the community. Despite their totally obvious reasons for protest (they don’t want to look-at/experience the business or they see it as a competitor to theirs), the nimbies really stretch the law and create legal hurdles so consuming of time, effort and money that many prospective companies just give up.

Surprisingly, the Recession (and its millions of jobs lost) has not tempered this mindset. The nimbies are working their black magic everywhere it seems.

In both North Tonawanda and Lockport groups of concerned citizens have slowed the construction of Super Wal-Marts. They seem to forget that they live in a city (where retail operations are expected to occur) or, in the case of Lockport, that the former Mall (the proposed site) actually used to be a shopping center. They tout zoning laws and request outlandish accommodations while spreading propaganda labeling Wal-Mart as “evil” because they sell nothing but Chinese goods. Do nimbies not realize that more goods could be manufactured in America if people like them didn’t make it nearly impossible to do so?

You also have the Gasport nimbies who aren’t very welcoming to Niagara Metals. They work under the guise of protecting the Red Creek watershed but it just so happens those involved with the lawsuit against the town live in view of the site which once was, by the way, a commercial establishment (the base for a working quarry) and was recently designated by the townsfolk as the corridor in which Gasport business should be done.

Then, there’s Middleport and Lockport where you have nimbies who complain about outdoor concerts to Mayors Maedl and Tucker. The killjoys are oblivious to the fact the entertaining concerts bring countless visitors who come cash in hand, keeping the locals employed.

Those incidents are just the tip of the iceberg; nimbies are everywhere. They must be so independently wealthy or unusually secure in their careers (regardless of the economy) that they can feel comfortable attacking new jobs in their communities. Truth be told, most are selfish and don’t care about the 12,000 jobless in Niagara County.

I can discount these nimbies because it’s not like I am unaffected by development. I live next door to a dairy farm. A decade ago when I moved into my home my neighbor had very few head of cattle. Now, the number of cows is in the hundreds. With that comes manure and lots of it. Needless to say, the smell is pretty ripe. But, you know what? I like it. It smells like gold to me: It means my neighbor is doing well, he’s employing people and he’s feeding countless families with his products. It makes me feel good to see – and smell - real economic activity taking place right next to my house.

It’s ironic: I accept that manure with open arms, but the bull that the nimbies spread really turns my stomach.

1 comment:

-jay said...

I was just talking to someone about this the other day- There are a few other cases over the past few years of small or large businesses being denied in the area, either because of a few vocal homeowners or by corporations fearing competition as you stated. But sadly it really all boils down to a loss for the consumer.