Opinion

Decant rant -- we've been here before

‘City finds home for public works yard,’ the headline read; in the dozen paragraphs that followed, a gaggle of city officials dutifully extolled the virtues of a Sportsman Club Road property, for the development of a new facility for repair shops, highway materials and heavy equipment.

It was September 1994, and we can’t say who was more naive – the city for proposing the site, or the local press for reporting it with a straight face. Enthusiasm for the location lasted exactly until the first public hearing, at which neighbors turned out to decry the impacts of noises and smells on nearby residences, the hazards of truck traffic near a school, and the negative effect on area property values.

This week (being older and perhaps wiser), the press found a certain predictability to the outcome when city officials met with neighbors to discuss a proposed “decant” facility on – oh, the humanity – Sportsman Club Road at New Brooklyn. The project would see construction of several sizeable covered trays, where the gunk that’s dredged up from ditches and storm drains would be dried and collected for off-site disposal. A more-stringent regulatory climate drives the need for the facility, which has been discussed for several years and has already been beaten back once by Weaver Road residents.

Did we mention predictability? Indeed, the hall Monday was filled with neighbors decrying...hmm...noises and smells for nearby residents, truck traffic, negative effects on property values. One fellow added a new and rather boorish component to the mix – something that never used to be spoken out loud, but times and income demographics change – essentially:

“Don’t you understand how much money we have? You will never get this past us.”

Leaving aside the certain need for the facility – or the degree to which it might actually be noticeable, plunked into the middle of 15 acres and surrounded by trees – it seems to us that for city officials, some unfortunate lessons of NIMBYism remain unlearned, specifically:

“My Back Yard” extends well beyond My Back Fence. And furthermore, My Attorney can prove it.

Six years ago, for the public works yard, the city wound up buying a Hidden Cove property that had already seen years of use by various earthmoving companies. The site was hardly central, but it had the distinct advantage of having fewer neighbors to unite in opposition.

Given that precedent, officials might seriously consider looking elsewhere for their decant facility. We would note that the city recently acquired several already-degraded parcels, with long histories of quasi-industrial use under county ownership. One is at the head of the bay, near the site of present decant activities; another is on Miller Road. With the Vincent Road dump now reclaimed, the city is about to own that 40-acre parcel as well.

As to those extra wastewater disposal costs that might come for lack of a sewer connection, it might be worth it.

The city’s been down the present path before, and it leads to a brick wall and a migraine.

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