NIMBY issues

Andy Barker
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The fishery gave rise to coastal Newfoundland settlements that were built in a higgly-piggly fashion. However, from the outset, Grand Falls was very unique in that it was away from the sea and a planned town by the paper mill owners - the Anglo Newfoundland Development Company.

Nowadays, municipal plans are a standard practice with zoning rules in place with specific locations for homes, apartments, stores, businesses, scrap yards, cemeteries, malls and whatever - a divisional coexistence for all those living in a community.

Yet, it's those very plans that regularly cause conflicts when a municipality or an applicant seek to re-zone the use of an established building or land for something entirely different than what's presently in a neighbourhood.

Being against a change - whatever it may be - can have you mocked, disparagingly as a NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard).

Our house on Dunn Place was built with the Trans Canada Highway near our back yard. Reality for us, and the neighourhood, is the regular quickly fleeing sound of traffic from the TCH. However, less than welcomed (most notable outdoors in the summer) is the ear piercing sound of jake brakes emitted by some transport trucks going down the grade near the graveyard.

Who cares about that noise? Truckers? Town council? Department of Highways? To get rid of that ungodly noise from my back yard would require kicking up a stink much the people near the mill had to do short years ago when black soot, falling from a mill stack, caused a mess on their vehicles, homes and property.

Kicking up a stink wouldn't be new on our street because around 1980 the then owners of the neighbourhood mansion wanted to change their milestone into a "high class" eatery. As a town councilor, I found that idea unsettling, especially when the neighbourhood hadn't been consulted. So, I called some of them to hear their thoughts. And all hell broke loose.

In the end, the fancy eatery issue died. But short years later another uproar arose when a group wanted to turn the residence into a women's shelter. That too died.

The eatery wasn't the only racket back in the early 1980's. The plan for a new provincial prison - on Hardy Ave near Brown caused another NIMBY issue. How could you not expect an uproar from the people nearby when that idea, unknown to them, came out of the blue? The town's ineptitude caused the jail to be built out of town, specifically in Bishop's Falls.

Decades later and conflict over planning-zoning continues as council pushed for changes for land uses on the river bank and the location for a youth treatment center. A river side hotel may never start but the treatment center has begun - off Lincoln Road near, the south side of the TCH underpass. Makes you wonder though about traffic getting in and out of the place?

And perhaps the ultimate conflict for us looms on the horizon. The massive structure of the mill - other than the power house - is surely destined to be demolished once the Supreme Court of Canada makes a ruling on who pays to do it.

Conflict about uses for the mill property could be greatly mitigated if the council started widespread formal community discussions and consultations before the wrecking starts. How-

ever if council's winker like vision for High Street is any standard judge by - don't hold your breathe waiting to be heard!

Other areas of town could have used or use the people's views. What to do with vacant lots on High Street or now the lot where the old Grand Falls Academy once stood? As well, what should happen to schools once they are shut down, abandoned?

NIMBY issues are not just here. Badger was in the news lately about the sight for a crematorium. People in Paradise have issues about the location of a treatment center. And St. John's is seemingly always in the news with planning-zoning issues.

Many contentious issues could be nipped in the bud if councils respected the spirit of their adopted municipal plan and truly consulted and listened to people before instigating changes in neighbourhoods. If changes are inevitable and necessary, then a consultation-consensus-compromise process is the better route to make them happen.

However, you can expect NIMBY issues to arise again and again with councils forever fiddling, making unexpected hodgepodge changes to municipal plans, especially when interested parties put the squeeze on them or a council suddenly has grand visions.

People living in a neighbourhood or a town, only temporarily, may not care what happens or who does it - they're moving on.

But for those rooted in a place - it's quite a different quintal fish. For them, being left out of the loop about changes to their neighbourhood or town practically gives them no choice, but to stand their ground.

And be a NIMBY!


Organizations: Trans Canada Highway, Anglo Newfoundland Development Company, Town council Supreme Court of Canada Grand Falls Academy

Geographic location: Newfoundland, Grand Falls, Dunn Place High Street Lincoln Road Paradise St. John's

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