Congratulations on naming Annette Smith Vermonter of the Year. It was a courageous choice, and one sure to provoke controversy. As expected, the tired, old, cliched charge of NIMBY-ism was soon trotted out.
Let’s parse out NIMBY. It’s an acronym for Not in My Backyard, but the real meaning is: I want something to happen that will benefit me, but that somebody else pays for.
There’s an informal agreement online that when a party in a heated debate compares the other party to Hitler, the name-calling party automatically loses credibility and the debate. Might I suggest we do the same with the charge of NIMBY-ism? Or perhaps create a new acronym OBSESS: “Okay Because Somebody Else Suffers. Sucker!”
Annette Smith would never have been this successful if she hadn’t been given ammunition by the renewable energy developers. In a few short years, their arrogance, greed and dishonesty have created a vast sea change in residents’ attitudes toward renewable energy. Massive, ugly, and un-landscaped projects have created a massive backlash, turning tens of thousands of people in this state against future projects.
There are valid concerns about monstrous, industrial-sized power plants being sited in residential and agricultural areas, and even in environmentally sensitive sites, but these concerns have largely been ignored by Montpelier and the renewable energy barons. These concerns could be addressed but they would cut into the profits of the developers, who regard our state as a place to make easy money.
These projects have a dramatic and demonstrable impact on surrounding property values. People who relied on zoning regulations to protect their neighborhoods were shocked to find that secret deals cut by the developers with the state preempted these time honored methods and apparently left them without any way of protecting their homes.
And then Annette showed them how to speak up and fight back against the state’s ham-handed methods. And she turned the tide against irresponsible development. It’s called democracy.
So am I a NIMBY? Absolutely! I am concerned about my backyard, my neighborhood, my town and my state. My family has lived here for generations and I am not going to sit silently while carpetbagger developers and out-of-state interests reap maximum profits by destroying what’s precious and unique to Vermont.
If they come up with reasonably sized, reasonably sited and, most importantly, reasonably screened projects, then perhaps we can have a dialogue. Until then, NIMBY.
Kevin Commins lives in New Haven.
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