Monday, April 22, 2024

Is Meaford in Danger of Becoming a NIMBY Community?

By Stephen Vance, Editor

A criticism I hear regularly, and with increasing frequency about Meaford is that it has become a NIMBY community.

Wind turbines? Not in my back yard. Waste to energy incinerator? Not in my back yard. Cell tower placement? Not in my back yard.

Whether Meaford is deserving of the NIMBY moniker I’m not so certain, however Meaford residents should take some time to ask themselves what they do want in their back yard.

Should Meaford residents have remained silent when faced with a proposed waste to energy incinerator that would have seen municipal waste incinerated and turned into energy on a property that is book-ended by a residential home and an apple orchard? I think it is fair to say that Meaford residents were right to push back, and ultimately the proposal quietly went away.

Even when justified, a community fighting against something coming to their community is often slapped with the NIMBY tag. The difficulty can be, and what Meaford residents – or residents in any community – need to avoid is saying no for the sake of saying no.

As I mentioned in a previous editorial, I wasn’t personally concerned about a proposed cell tower to be located near Meaford’s high school. Not because I have no concern for students or residents in the vicinity of the proposed tower location, but rather because nothing I have read on the subject has caused me any great concern.

That however does not mean that cell towers in a residential area should not be a concern. If our friends and neighbours are expressing concern, I think it only prudent to take a cautious approach. I’m no scientist, so I can’t profess to know whether there is actually any concern with cell towers in residential areas, however we are all aware of various products, processes, or practices that were once thought safe, only to discover decades later that they were not.

In the early 1900’s it was thought that radioactive drinks were healthy. Until the 1800’s bloodletting was used as a treatment to drain away a host of illnesses. Cigarettes were at one time “doctor approved”.

How many communities were thrilled at the economic development opportunities for asbestos processing facilities? How many communities, particularly south of the American border have been ruined by oil spills from “safe” pipelines and rail cars? How many families have been forced to move after chemical leaks from the “safe” factory nearby?

Perhaps in 50 years we will be looking back on some of the products we use, or facilities that were allowed to be built in residential areas with surprise at how dangerous they turned out to be in spite of assurances that there was no potential for harm to humans or their surrounding environment.

So how does a community know when to say no?

That’s the million dollar question, but perhaps there is a better approach than starting off with a position of not in my back yard, and those in our community who have concerns about potential health issues associated with cell towers in residential areas seemed to have approached the issue the right way.

A respectful plea to council, followed by not a protest, but rather a rally in support of council’s actions, followed by a petition and letters and phone calls. No angry rants, no accusations, no name-calling. The calm, rational, respectful approach is certainly beneficial to the whole process.

Knee-jerk rejection of a proposed project in this municipality is as unwise as blind acceptance of everything thrown our way.

With a rational approach however, some concerns will be validated and acted upon, while others, through discussion and education may very well turn out to be less of a concern than initially thought.

Why is that important? In a community that is forever lamenting the lack of economic development opportunities, we can’t risk casting aside an economic opportunity due to unsubstantiated fears and concerns.

To be ever vigilant, while maintaining an open mind, and a willingness to concede a position after hearing and reading all of the facts is a wise approach, and one that can help to ward off the NIMBY accusation.

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