Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

'Not in My Backyard' Often Tops Development Protests

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

'Not in My Backyard' Often Tops Development Protests

Article excerpt

They aren't landfills. Or nuclear power plants. Or halfway houses for sex offenders.

But people are fighting and fighting hard to stop two new apartment complexes for senior citizens. One of them has been proposed in Town and Country. The other is already under construction in Oakville. Some residents are unhappy. They say they are concerned about increased traffic, lowered property values and the outsize scale of the new structures. "Why here?" they ask.

In the Oakville area, the objections were enough that the county planning and zoning commission has been asked to reconsider its year- old approval. The commission plans to take up the issue on Monday.

This neighborly opposition has brought some grief from others around the St. Louis region. After all, seniors sound like harmless neighbors. But new developments, whatever they are, tend to bring out fierce objections and worries.

In St. Louis' Dogtown neighborhood, a resident has sued to stop plans to build 63 apartments. Neighbors in Sunset Hills fought plans for a gas station on the site of an old Bob Evans restaurant and, earlier this year, they lost. Jefferson County residents have complained about plans to erect 17 emergency communication towers, echoing concerns about the towers in Arnold, Wentzville and west St. Louis County.

In Brentwood, some residents want the city to block Boys Hope Girls Hope, an internationally recognized academic boarding house, from erecting a pair of two-story buildings to house 20 children. The residents say the project would threaten the neighborhood's charm and snarl traffic.

"The basic issue is that people don't like change," said Amber Miller, planning director in Fairview Heights and an officer of the American Planning Association's St. Louis chapter. "It doesn't matter what the change is. That's not what they bought into."

Public planners hear it all the time. Someone buys a house with a sweeping view of an open field, which is then subdivided for 400 houses. The shuttered storefront on the corner is an eyesore, but then someone proposes opening a car dealership there. Miller has heard the owners of a multiunit condo complex object to plans for an adjacent apartment complex because the new project was multiunit.

Sometimes people are right to complain. The car dealership's lights might be too bright. Or maybe the fast food restaurant's sign doesn't need to sit on a 40-foot pole. And maybe the project really doesn't fit the neighborhood.

The reaction is typically labeled NIMBY Not In My Backyard. The term was popularized in the 1980s in disputes with hazardous waste facilities. Residents understand the need; they just don't want to live next door. It's enough of an issue that the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development runs a website offering tips for combating NIMBYism of housing projects for the homeless. …

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