Will fishermen stop the huge wind farm off Nantucket?

March, 2019

I’ve been listening to NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) arguments since I was president of the Auburndale (Newton) Community Association in the mid-70s. The opponents almost always make the same two claims.

1. If whatever is proposed is built it will “ruin the (insert adjective) character of the community”.

2. It will also reduce property values.

Most of the time, those predictions do not come true, I believe, but I am still sympathetic to opponents when the project is private and not for the benefit of the community. Unfortunately, objections to these proposals sometimes make no sense. I remember a proposal from the owner of a big stone house on four acres in Newton who already had zoning for five additional houses on his property. Instead of building those five “by right” houses he wanted to leave the land open and turn the big stone house into four condos.

It looked like a no-brainer to me, but the NIMBY brigade didn’t like it. “Oh the terrible traffic…” those four units would generate. And property values would collapse! They just didn’t want anything to change, and they convinced themselves their neighbor wasn’t going to build those five new single families. They won the battle and lost the war. He built five houses.

The next level of situation is the most common one: The property is private but the project being proposed has some community benefit. “40B” projects are in this category. They are usually much more densely packed than existing homes, but a percentage of their units must be affordable housing, something we sorely lack on the Cape. The community benefit must be weighed against whatever inconvenience the development brings to the neighborhood.

Right now a developer wants to put 12 houses on four undeveloped acres off Locustfield Road in Falmouth. A CC Times editorial reported that “Even though the Falmouth Board of Selectmen unanimously voted to support it, neighbors argue it will change the agricultural character of the area. Others say it will lower property values.”

These are the two standard predictions. They usually don’t come true. As the Times editorial said, “One of our editorial board members lives within a stone’s throw of such a development in Sandwich. If you drive around the neighborhood, you’d be hard pressed to notice which of the homes is affordable, and property values have not declined.”

The third class of NIMBY involves projects on public lands. Towns may want to develop land they own for things like elderly housing, or trash transfer stations, or any one of a number of things. I think we should be much less tolerant of NIMBY objections to these projects. The neighbors knew the land was there and could be developed when they bought the house.

But there is an even worse class of objections, going beyond NIMBY and approaching BANANA (Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anything). In that category right now are the fishermen trying to stop the development of the wind farm near Nantucket. They fish in those waters and seem to think they are entitled to do so forever. They are worried that the construction of a wind farm will lower their catch. They want the wind farm stopped.

Don’t they understand that we are having a climate change crisis, and the wind farm is an important part of the solution? Don’t they understand that we the people own that part of the ocean and the fish who swim in it? Have they ever paid an extraction fee for the fish they catch?

There are other places to fish. Changing location may be inconvenient for a few, but a three-foot rise in ocean level could be a disaster for millions. This is a no-brainer.

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