Some people want to get rid of their waste. Others want to keep it

September 2019

NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) may have graduated to BANANA (Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anybody) in Centerville. According to the Cape Cod Times the town of Barnstable is trying to put in a pumping station on a third of an acre on Main Street to service a new sewer system for a neighborhood that has become too crowded for individual septic systems.

Most of the equipment will be underground and the rest may be put into a small cottage-style building. Similar pumps have been installed elsewhere in town.

Some Main Street neighbors are organizing opposition. They cannot make the typical NIMBY claim that traffic will be unacceptably increased, so they are relying on the tried and true property value argument. One says that “several real estate agents told him the stigma of the sewer infrastructure would always be there.” Another said that the station would be “…a disaster for Centerville Village.”

I’d rather tell a prospective buyer that my house was served by a sewer system than report that all the house’s waste was being stored under the lawn where their kids will play; but maybe that’s just me.

Let’s concede that the neighbors could be correct, and their property value is at risk. There may be a way to protect them from any ill effects.

Suppose we give the abutters and the abutters to the abutters a guarantee. If they want to leave the neighborhood, the town will buy their house at the current assessed value if they cannot get an offer for more. Since assessments are supposed to be 100% of fair market value, that should be reasonable.

If the neighbors don’t want to sell now, each year the town will raise the assessment (and the price) by the increase in the sales price of the median house sold in town that year (taxes will go up accordingly). When they do sell, the offer to buy at the current assessed price will still be available.

There can be no progress when BANANA is the rule. But if we can provide some security for those most affected by new development it seems to me that it makes sense to do so.

Jack Edmonston lives in East Sandwich, Massachusetts.

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