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Planet NIMBY


A WOOD-BURNING power generator in Perryville. A group home for delinquent teens in Worthington Valley. A racetrack in northern Anne Arundel. A college sports complex in Towson. A minor-league ballpark in Aberdeen. A synagogue in Owings Mills. And a church in Howard County.

What do these very different projects have in common? Nobody wanted them in their backyards.

Arguments against the projects, and their merits, were as varied as the projects themselves. But the overarching sentiment was that residents opposed anything that would alter where they live. Put another way: Any change in the character of their suburban or rural locales was fine -- until they moved there. Any change after that point, in their mind, was unacceptable. Whether the project would bring jobs, fix a dump, serve a human need or another social good seemed immaterial.

This, or any, area wouldn't progress long with such narrowness. One can't imagine people in Sparrows Point a century ago jeering news of a steel plant. Or duck-hunters in Aberdeen gunning down plans for a big Army base generations ago. Restaurateurs in Little Italy did, in fact, decry plans for Harborplace 25 years ago, but quickly realized the Inner Harbor was a boon to them.

The current mindset doesn't bode well, long term. Gov. Parris N. Glendening's "Smart Growth" program seeks to turn back the clock on development and sprawling patterns of suburban land-use, with distinct residential and business zones, and return to more dense neighborhoods with stores, parks, homes and alleys.

One can't help but wonder how this long-term change will be accomplished if it necessitates bringing more things into the "backyards" that so many people want to remain unchanged.

Pub Date: 2/25/99

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