“NOT IN MY BACK YARD!” is a rallying cry heard in many communities whenever a proposal comes along to use land for a purpose other than the type of housing some residents prefer (which usually means house exactly like theirs.). Projects with a social service, governmental or commercial purpose — such as a prison, halfway house or shopping district — can be met with stiff opposition, especially if there is a fear that such usages will cause the value of surrounding homes to lose value. In some cases the fear is legitimate; in others not so much; and in others still, not at all.
My first real experience with NIMBY was well over a decade ago when Oriana House (a professionally run group of NEO halfway houses that work hard to maintain their reputation) proposed to rehab a building on 55th Street near Hough Avenue for a new halfway house. In spite of the fact the project had the backing of then-Councilwoman Fannie Lewis, a few of my neighbors were apoplectic.
When my wife and I — we were relatively new to the ward — refused to join them and become partners to their outrage, we quickly became to be viewed as enemies in a few small minds and remain so to this very day. Some of the opposition we faced early on when establishing our vineyard and winery goes back to us standing up for what we knew to be right.
Interestingly, the same folks who have nursed a grudge against us for all these many years forgave Fannie not long after the facility opened, and they soon began to use the community meeting room for ward meetings when the North Star Reentry Services Center facility was opened directly across the street a few years later.
The reason I’m providing this historical context is because issues of land use are going to again become a hot topic in parts of Ward 7 in the coming months and years. With the change in political leadership in the ward, one fairly immediate result will be that more development is going to occur, which is a good thing. But where and how that development occurs are questions that are going to have to be addressed, and just as they were back when Oriana House was first proposed, again some folks are going to become apoplectic.
Among the first projects being proposed in the ward (other than those along Euclid or Chester Avenues) is the development of a “destination corridor” running along E. 66th Street from Lexington Avenue at League Park, south to the Dunham Tavern Museum at Euclid Avenue. And yes, as good fortune (or better yet, good foresight) would have it, this runs right past the vineyard and winery my wife and I have established at the corner of Hough Avenue and E.66th.
Of course the first complaint by naysayers will be that the project is bound to create too much new traffic. But those of us who want to see this part of Hough rebound think “we should only be so lucky,” as that is the goal — more people visiting the ward. The fact is, the area under discussion is zoned commercial, not residential, and anyone who doesn’t want this type of development near their newer home should have thought about zoning when they were selecting a site for their residence. However, they still have the option of moving out of the neighborhood — not that I’m encouraging them to do so mind you. No, really, I’m not.
This proposed corridor offers some exciting possibilities for long overdue development — as long as such development doesn’t expand gentrification. And one method of making such assurances is to designate some of the vacant lots along the route to the construction of permanent supportive housing. Yes, housing for the chronically homeless and those struggling with mental health issues.
After all, in spite of the fact some folks don’t care to admit it, these are our kinfolk — yours and mine. We should not want to be like those fine upstanding (and supposedly religious) families that reside in wealthy suburbs and exurbs who would rather ship their loved ones off to some inner city neighborhood when they become addicted or suffer some other form of social trauma, rather than to keep them close by so they can be helped. Folks like that should be ashamed.
Now, it’s easy to imagine the howls of NIMBY emanating from some of the same folks who were against the halfway house being built on 55th. But they were wrong then, as they will be if they oppose well-run supportive housing for the less fortunate in our society. If such facilities are not operated in a professional manner (and not allowed become a nuisance), I will be among the first to demand they immediately be shuttered.
Certainly we have to continue to expand opportunities for more members of the middle class — from all demographics — to build upscale homes in appropriate parts of the ward; that’s why my wife and I built our home here 17-years ago. Not everyone wants to live in Solon, Bentleyville or beyond. Some of us simply love having a nice spread with a big back yard just minutes from downtown to the west and the amenities of University Circle to the east.
Truly, parts of Ward 7 are almost Heaven. And, as such, there has to be room in our fine community for all of God’s children.
From CoolCleveland correspondent Mansfield B. Frazier mansfieldfATgmail.com. Frazier’s From Behind The Wall: Commentary on Crime, Punishment, Race and the Underclass by a Prison Inmate is available in hardback. Snag your copy and have it signed by the author at http://NeighborhoodSolutionsInc.com.