For eight years, Tom Resek has labored to determine what’s subsequent for the previous Apollo Tannery property in Camden, a three-acre website the place animal disguise tanning and different industrial actions had been carried out for greater than a century. So far, there hasn’t been a growth proposal he likes, although.
The tannery closed in 1997, and the city acquired the land six years later after the proprietor did not pay property taxes. Since then, the way forward for the location has been a giant query mark hanging over Camden’s Millville neighborhood — particularly for neighbors like Resek.
A self-employed businessman, Resek is evident on what he needs for the property alongside the Megunticook River. He’d prefer to see a multi-use group park with a devoted house for the Camden Farmers’ Market, in addition to inexpensive housing alternatives.
What he doesn’t need is the opposite proposals which have been launched up to now, which embrace a startup film studio, an ambulance middle, a three-story house constructing and a mixture entrepreneurial makerspace and housing growth. The 2014 ambulance middle proposal, which he thought could be too noisy and harmful for Millville, is what pushed him to assist type the Pals of Tannery Park group. He needed the residents to have some company in what was constructed there.
However what Resek actually doesn’t need is for his activism in preventing for the way forward for his neighborhood to be given the often-negative label of NIMBY, or “Not In My Yard.” A couple of individuals have used that time period, which he sees as a phrase used to belittle those that need a say in what occurs of their neighborhoods.
“It’s simply significantly better to speak concerning the difficulty itself,” he mentioned. “It’s a label, and a label that’s used, typically, in a adverse means, to marginalize a gaggle.”
The controversy taking part in out across the former tannery website in Camden is echoed across the state, however maybe most acutely alongside the coast, the place growth pressures abound and residents need to defend property values and their lifestyle.
From land-based fish farms to replacements for growing older bridges, to power transmission traces, to inexpensive housing developments, a number of Mainers consider that their backyards — actually or metaphorically talking — aren’t the best place to construct them.
This pushback to growth has excessive stakes, and sometimes slows or stops initiatives of their tracks. Relying on the difficulty and on an individual’s perspective, this may be both optimistic or troubling for Maine’s future.
Although the acronym NIMBY started as a Seventies rallying cry adopted by lower- and middle-income individuals preventing for environmental justice, it has advanced within the years to suggest selfishness. Critics of those that embody the phrase embrace the rising YIMBY, or “Sure In My Yard,” housing advocacy motion. They consider that individuals who have already got one thing — a home, a job, cash, a view — are preventing to maintain others from having their share, too.
Nevertheless it additionally is sensible that, in a time when so many political or world issues really feel uncontrolled, fights over what occurs in an individual’s city and neighborhood really feel properly price having.
“Yeah, I care about what’s in my yard. I imply, who doesn’t?” Resek mentioned. “Would you need a neighborhood that doesn’t care?”
Caroline Noblet, a College of Maine economics professor, mentioned that native opposition to proposed developments is occurring in all places.
“We hold seeing it over and over. There’s a sample,” she mentioned. “Nevertheless it’s not a uniquely Maine factor to say that one thing’s proposed and we don’t prefer it.”
Causes embrace “established order bias,” which is when individuals favor issues to stay the identical. It’s a well-known chorus in Maine, the oldest state within the nation and the place many residents have deep generational roots. That issues, she mentioned, utilizing the instance that if somebody’s grandfather proposed to their grandmother on a bridge, it may be arduous to assist changing it — even when it’s a bit rickety these days.
“I believe we’ve all been someplace and cared about one thing, and seen it not be instantly in our management,” she mentioned.
One thing else on her thoughts is the “drawbridge idea,” a time period to explain when individuals retire or transfer to Maine as a result of they just like the surroundings and different idyllic facets, and don’t need that to vary.
“After which they need to pull up the drawbridge behind them,” Noblet mentioned.
This group typically has schooling, time and assets, and is properly positioned to struggle change, she mentioned. Meaning they will discover themselves preventing for a similar issues because the generational Mainers, which may create highly effective, if barely uncommon, coalitions in opposition to proposed change.
“Maybe it’s uncommon for these two teams of individuals — rich, well-educated … retirees, and the parents who’ve lived on the town for a very long time and don’t have numerous assets, to agree on one thing,” Noblet mentioned.
And it’s simpler now than ever for opponents to search out one another, because of social media and the web.
“I believe there have been at all times opponents,” Noblet mentioned. “Now, I believe typically a small minority [of people] appears larger, as a result of there are extra instruments to get the message out.”
Issues and questions
Peter DelGreco of Maine & Co., a Portland-based nonprofit group that works to convey companies to the state, mentioned that opposition is slowing growth of all types. Courtroom instances, appeals and extra can alarm buyers and add a sense of threat to initiatives. City conferences about growth initiatives can run scorching, leaving communities solely extra divided and fewer more likely to discover consensus on proposals.
“Native opposition is totally an element,” DelGreco mentioned. “What’s bought to occur — and that is most likely factor — is that [companies have] bought to spend so much of time attending to know the group and what’s essential to the group. That additionally means it’s incumbent on the group to search out out for themselves what’s essential to them.”
In any other case, what’s at stake for Maine is far bigger than the person growth battles recommend.
“A few of these questions are actually arduous and difficult. We’re speaking about what’s our technique for development? What does our future seem like?” DelGreco mentioned.
He feels that what’s taking place in Maine is mirroring a nationwide pattern: America is a polarized place, and one the place persons are fast to problem concepts and choices they don’t like.
“I believe there’s a pure mistrust of the whole lot, and other people throughout the nation are saying no to numerous issues,” DelGreco mentioned. “Typically simply because they need to say no, and typically as a result of it makes them really feel empowered.”
However to him, no less than, the danger of simply saying no is clear. That’s very true relating to aquaculture, one thing that has been a part of the state’s financial growth agenda for many years. Corporations that need to construct land- or water-based farms on the coast typically have run into sharp opposition from individuals who have the assets to maintain initiatives in limbo, typically for years.
“What now we have is a handful of well-heeled folks that have determined that we don’t need that,” DelGreco mentioned. “They’re utterly altering the financial growth plans of a whole state simply because they’ve cash … I believe that’s driving NIMBYism.”
Vote of confidence
Past aquaculture, current points which have divided Camden embrace whether or not so as to add paid downtown parking and what to do concerning the tannery website and the Montgomery Dam on the Megunticook River.
“It’s undoubtedly a problem to make community-wide choices on advanced points,” Choose Board member Alison McKellar mentioned. “Typically all people simply has completely different objectives. Some individuals need there to be extra vacationers on the town, and a few individuals need there to be fewer vacationers.”
The query of what to do with the tannery website is nuanced, she mentioned. When the Apollo Tannery was working, it leaked chemical compounds onto a portion of the property. Whereas essentially the most severe contamination was excavated and eliminated in 2008, extra low-level decontamination work nonetheless must be carried out.
On a gradual stroll across the perimeter of the Camden tannery website, it’s not arduous to see why Resek and different members of the buddies group consider there’s potential within the property. Regardless of close by building work and the warmth of the July day, the trail is shady and peaceable because of the bushes lining the banks of the Megunticook River. Milkweed, goldenrod, Queen Anne’s lace and meadow grasses develop unchecked over a portion of the property.
“It doesn’t take a lot creativeness to see this as a park,” he mentioned. “I believe we might be perceived as NIMBYs if all we mentioned was, ‘Don’t do this.’ Nevertheless it’s not a egocentric pursuit to attempt to get one thing carried out for the group.”
Nonetheless, although proponents of turning the property right into a park have mentioned that no different severe entities needed to purchase it from Camden, when the city put out a request for proposals, that turned out to not be the case, McKellar mentioned.
“I don’t actually have an enormous or any agenda, myself,” she mentioned. “I’m simply so bored with having choices be made by speculating about what individuals need.”
So the city put it to a vote. Final month, residents voted 871 to 618 in opposition to giving the Choose Board the authority to get rid of tax-acquired property, together with the tannery website. In addition they voted 900 to 628 in opposition to giving the board energy to barter to promote the tannery property for no less than $250,000.
Resek and the Pals of Tannery Park consider the outcomes present a public vote of confidence within the park thought.
“So long as you may get a consensus or a gaggle of people that don’t simply reside subsequent to it, it goes from being a NIMBY difficulty to a group difficulty,” he mentioned. “We received over the entire city. The group that’s behind making an attempt to make it a park has members in the entire group, not simply within the neighborhood.”