Is NIMBY a selfish attitude?

Recently, at a social function, a Flower Mound acquaintance of mine mentioned that he and his neighbors are upset about a planned project alongside their community, on a commercial piece of property.

The multi-acre development would front on a major thoroughfare and the rear of the property would abut the aforementioned community and create a host of dangers and inconveniences for its residents, resulting in a possible loss of property values.

Safety concerns stem from a significant increase in traffic flow through the neighborhood where many children walk to and from school. Add to that the noise levels emanating from this type of facility and you have a major disruption to the security and well-being of hundreds of families.

On the other side of the equation is the right of a commercial property owner to build on land that would turn a profit. In this case, the irregular slice of turf is not suited to typical retail type establishments; hence, it sat untouched for several years while people moved into the area, raised families and enjoyed the security of a stable environment.

During those years, many site plans had been submitted to the town, none of which were deemed suitable for the asymmetrical property. Now, area residents are concerned that the Town Council may vote to force fit something on the site merely to advance an aggressive development agenda.

Undoubtedly, there are some who would say that those residents are being selfish and subscribing to the “not in my backyard” syndrome. But, is it selfish to want to protect a comfortable lifestyle that you planned for yourself and your family? Is it selfish to expect that your children won’t be imperiled by a bombardment of vehicles traversing your streets, many from other cities and towns?

Currently, the town is dealing with the prospect of school rezoning that will impact families in several ways, not the least of which is the safety of their children as they travel across busy arteries and unfamiliar terrain. Are they also being selfish? After all, doesn’t LISD have a duty to prepare for future enrollment numbers at the schools in the district? Should parents complain about the administrative exigencies that must be addressed by those elected school officials? If they believe that they are being unnecessarily inconvenienced, or endangered, the answer is a resounding “Yes!”

A few years ago, the major issue was gas drilling in the Barnett Shale under large areas of North Texas. Local residents began seeing a plethora of tall metal rigs dotting the landscape as the devices engaged in what became known as “fracking,” a method of injecting highly pressurized water and chemicals into the ground in order to fracture rock formations and release trapped gas.

Before residents got involved and began to protest against the potential environmental impacts, including contamination of ground water, risks to air quality, migration of gases and chemicals to the surface, among other dangers, it seemed as though our town would become a clone of Dish, Texas. However, thanks to some well-informed and outspoken residents, the issue was given wide dissemination and gas drilling activity was drastically curtailed.

Does such attention to our water supply and other health concerns mean that we are against allowing companies to find energy reserves to accommodate future needs? I think we all recognize that gas is one of the best, cleanest and safest forms of energy. However, we’re used to a different method of supplying gas to our homes; one that has little effect on the health and safety of its users and no effect on the visual environment. Nevertheless, can this be viewed as just another example of NIMBY?

Well, you can call it selfish or shortsighted, but at least you can’t call it apathetic. Good citizens should be sentinels for their neighborhoods and custodians of their future. If we’ve learned anything from our so-called leaders at every level of government it is that they can, and often do, make mistakes. Therefore, we can’t afford to accept without reservation every decision they make, regardless of how cockamamie it may be. You may refer to it as citizen participation, community activism, or just simply a group of residents who refuse to sit idly by while multiple layers of government decide their future without fear of serious resistance.

The best communities are those in which residents are aware of and actively involved in decisions made by their elected reps. Whether it’s a commercial entity that threatens to disrupt a quiet neighborhood, school rezoning that may put kids at risk, or gas drilling that could adversely impact our health, being vigilant is the best way to keep from being manipulated by those with motives that very often conflict with ours.

Bob Weir is a long-time Flower Mound resident and former local newspaper editor.



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