Opinion

Cannery Cove? Wouldn't want to be a planner | Latte Guy | Sept. 10

Cannery Cove? Wouldn't want to be a planner | Latte Guy | Sept. 10

I was at a gathering over the Labor Day weekend and someone asked me what I thought about Cannery Cove. I said I liked it, but didn’t think it was nearly as good a novel as “The Grapes of Wrath” nor as interesting as “Travels with Charley.” I realized from the look on my questioner’s face that he was not talking about books written by John Steinbeck; rather the controversy surrounding what to do with the park at Cannery Cove.

Even if I had understood the question correctly, I might have given the same answer. Nothing can turn a festive holiday gathering into a heated debate faster than the introduction of a hot land use issue into the conversation.

I know nothing about the legal or factual issues surrounding Cannery Cove, but these days, knowing nothing about an issue does not seem to disqualify anyone from having an opinion about it. It’s understandable that people who live near a particular piece of land will be concerned about how it is used, and will object to any use that would be detrimental to their enjoyment and well being.

None of us want to see anything ugly, loud or smelly standing in our own backyards, unless that thing happens to be one of our relatives, in which case we’re willing to make an exception at Thanksgiving. In that regard, we’re all NIMBYs to some degree – that old planner’s acronym for “Not In My Back Yard.” It refers to someone who opposes a particular proposed use of land because of a real or perceived adverse impact on that person’s own property.

On an island the size of Bainbridge, many of us consider everything south of the Agate Pass Bridge to be part of our back yard, and we therefore feel free to oppose land use decisions on properties we’ve never seen ourselves and probably never will.

A community with a high NIMBY component must make it hard to be a planner. Every land use action potentially becomes a LULU (Locally Unacceptable Land Use).

Reasonable people can disagree over whether we’ve gone too far down the NIMBY trail or not far enough. The problem as I see it is that on Bainbridge it’s sometimes hard to tell a sincere, well-meaning NIMBY from an uncompromising BANANA (Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anybody).

A good NIMBY may have legitimate objections to a particular project, but a true-believer BANANA will object to anything, not on the merits of the project itself, but philosophically to the concept of change or progress.

I suspect we have our fair share of BANANAs; in fact, I’ve broken bread with more than one. Some BANANAs limit the scope of their antipathy to land use actions to things occurring here on the island. Other more zealous BANANAs take a slightly larger world view of the importance of their opinions to the greater good, thereby joining the ranks of the NOPEs (Not On Planet Earth).

NIMBYs, BANANAs and NOPEs frequently run for office in order to provide a bigger stage for their ambitions and philosophies. When they win, zealous opposition to all land use actions is often tempered with the realities of the need to make legislative compromises and build coalitions. This may result in the conversion of some NIMBYs, BANANAs and NOPEs into NIMTOOs (Not In My Term Of Office).

None of this probably helps anyone decide what to do about Cannery Cove. It’s understandable why some people would think the property could use a little sprucing up.

Even Edward Abbey said that you don’t have to look like a weed to be organic. On the other hand, Henry David Thoreau said that a man is rich in proportion to the number of things he can afford to leave alone.

I do know that if we destroy or degrade rare and beautiful things for purely economic or frivolous reasons, then we allow ourselves to be impoverished more than a community so naturally blessed should ever be. In the meantime, may I recommend “Tortilla Flat” or “East of Eden?”

Tom Tyner is an attorney for the Trust for Public Land. He is author of “Skeletons From Our Closet,” a collection of writings on the island’s latte scene

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