‘Not in my backyard’ or NIMBY as some have dubbed it, is a phrase uttered whenever development or projects are opposed by a neighborhood or group of citizens. Â It has come to have negative connotations that negate the valid arguments made against unwanted projects and developments. Â This phrase hase popped up several times during the discussion of the Charis House project, but most recently in a reader’s commentsÂ about a post I’d written about the Charis House/Fairmount Place controversy. Â She ended her comments about the opposition to the Charis House by saying it is about ‘Not in my backyard’.
In July, 1975, a battle raged over plans to open an adult bookstore in the 900 block of Broadway. Â The location was next to the Alter Pharmacy in the far corner of the above building which is now owned by Broadway Christian. Â This is in the West Central Neighborhood.
The owner of the adult bookstore, Greg Myers, was denied an occupancy permit. He stated that then Mayor Ivan Lebamoff had ordered the City’s Division of Long-range Planning and Zoning not to issue the permit which several employees in the department confirmed. The Mayor’s office responded that several reports on the book store had not been filed by city departments. Â In the meantime, the Fort Wayne City Council introduced and passed, in a special session, an ordinance declaring a moratorium on the opening of any new adult bookstores in the city – the day after the bookstore had opened. Â The surrounding neighborhood and businesses were supportive of this ordinance and the instigators of the legislation.
When introducing the measure, Councilman Sam Talarico Sr., stated that:
[…] families in the West-central area had worked hard to increase the values of their homes and didn’t want to see those values drop, which they would with the establishment of an adult bookstore in the neighborhood.
Talarico further charged that adult bookstores downtown would steer families away and in this way impede the beautification and development of downtown Fort Wayne.
A little later in the article:
Second District Councilman Donald Schmidt said he voted for the measure because it gives neighborhood residents ‘control over their environment.’
Let us be clear about something before we proceed further. Â BY NO MEANS am I equating the proposed Charis House development with an adult bookstore. Â However, some of the arguments (noted in italics) made almost 35 years ago echo those made recently in regards to the Charis House project. Â The obvious difference is that no one thought negatively of the West Central Neighborhood for not wanting this business in their area. Â And yes, I know that an adult bookstore is about as far removed from the good that the proposed Charis House facility would accomplish, if built, as you can get. Â
The point is, citizens have a right to protest developments/projects that do not fit their neighborhoods – no matter the benefits or harm that come with such developments. Â This is one of the reasons why we have zoning laws – to control types of development in areas with certain zoning classifications. Â Otherwise, you’d have a factory, house, convenience store, apartment building, animal boarding facility and who knows what else all in the same immediate area – or an adult bookstore next to a church and school.
The reader who took issue with my comments also talked about her opposition to building a flood control wall in the Thieme Drive area. Â While I completely understand and agree with the arguments made for not building the wall, the bigger picture is that such a wall would cut down on the City’s flood fighting expenses when that area floods. Â That would certainly make such a wall a ‘greater good’ project; Â yet, she has a right to protest this project if it does not fit her vision of the neighborhood without being unfairly vilified. Â So do the people in the Wells Street area affected by this project.