Mercy Health West Hospital will open this fall in Green Township. When plans for the hospital were announced, some residents voiced their opposition. It was a classic NIMBY fight.
In Greater Cincinnati and in every other community, there is a history of neighbors questioning or opposing projects they might support in general, but “not in my backyard”. Often the concerns raised by neighbors lead to compromises that can be advantageous for all concerned.
Green Township Planning and Development director Adam Goetzman has almost 20 years of experience working with residents concerned with “not in my back yard”, or NIMBY, issues.
Hundreds of people who lived near the hospital site crowded township meetings when plans for the hospital were announced in 2009. They raised concerns about the traffic, noise, the people who might come to the hospital, and public safety.
“They’re coming at it very emotionally charged because they’re coming at it when it is directly in their back yard or in their community and the emotions are going to take over,” said Goetzman, about NIMBY fights in general.
A sampling of opponents of the hospital shows they are still angry.
“It’s a huge disappointment”, said Karen Russo, a Monfort Heights resident. “But it’s a done deal. Life goes on.”
Almost seventy acres of land off North Bend Road near Interstate 74 was acquired by Mercy Health to build the hospital complex.
Eastern Corridor Concerns
“I think it’s instinct for people to protect things they care about”, said Karen Sullivan, a leader of a NIMBY fight on the other side of the Cincinnati area.
Sullivan is part of the growing opposition to the proposed Eastern Corridor, a highway, rail and bike trail that would link downtown with Milford and cut through several communities. She opposes the Eastern Corridor plan to relocate route 32 through the Little Miami scenic river valley, right below her Mariemont neighborhood.
“We went door to door and had over a hundred comment forms sent to the Ohio Department of Transportation as part of their public involvement and since then we’ve had meetings and the community has really come together,'' Sullivan said in early September. "And we have a petition on change.org with over 1300 signatures at the moment."
Opposition to the Eastern Corridor is occurring in other communities that would be affected by the relocation of route 32.
“All these cars are going to have to go somewhere…That’s why we’ve kind of aligned with Madisonville that would be dealing with 20,000 cars a day, that would… disrupt their revitalization plans in creating a walkable community, Sullivan added.
There are many other concerns about the Eastern Corridor, which has been on the drawing boards for many years. Funding for the project has not yet come together.
Group Homes Trouble Neighbors
NIMBY fights have occurred in numerous neighborhoods over efforts to establish residential group homes. Montgomery residents are now in court opposing a home for elderly people with dementia on Bramblewood Circle.
Michael Defrancesco had many NIMBY encounters as head of a company that established group homes for people with developmental disabilities
“I had a situation on the west side of town…It was a significant concern…the stuff kind of rifles through neighborhood… very quickly. Fortunately I knew the priest and we had meeting at church, thinking holy spirit might help, and it did,” he said.
Defrancesco says it also helps to explain to neighbors what the home does and how it is managed. He says many are misinformed about the economic impact of group homes for the disabled. Defrancesco said property value concerns are legitimate but statistical studies don’t support fears of negative impacts.
Outcomes not as bad as feared
UC Professor of planning David Varady also says most housing initiatives aren’t as problematic as neighbors fear.
“Virtually there are no cases that I know of that public housing for the elderly having negative impacts'' Vardy said. "And scattered site public housing tends not to have bad impacts either.”
There’s scattered site public housing in his community, North Avondale, Varady said, though many residents don’t know it exists.
“It appears to be run well enough that people don’t know about it so that’s probably a measure of success when that happens,'' Vardy said. "When it was first built it was very controversial.”
Scattered site public housing continues to be an issue in Green Township. Earlier this year, an outcry from neighbors stopped plans to build a large public housing complex on the township’s border with Cincinnati and Cheviot. Residents of the quiet streets nearby quickly mobilized against it.
NIMBY fights yield compromises
The worst thing a developer can do, planners say, is to introduce a project as a
done deal, before talking to residents and listening to their concerns.
Developers of the proposed Wasson Way Bike Trail seem to be doing it right. There are numerous community meetings scheduled to hear feedback on the proposed 6.5 mile trail that would connect Oakley, Hyde Park and other communities to the Little Miami Bike Trail in Newtown.
There is little if any neighborhood opposition to the plan at this point, but walking and bike trails encountered opposition in the past. Some residents of Terrace Park were worried about privacy, vegetation, and safety in 2004 when plans were put forth to extend the bike trail through their community. But planners met with residents to listen to their concerns, adjustments were made and the trail was opened.
A new chapter in a NIMBY issue in communities surrounding Lunken Airport may be brewing. Residents of Mt. Lookout and Mt. Washington were successful in blocking the addition of commercial flights to the airport in 2001. Now Allegiant Airlines is considering a plan to add two commercial flights a day from Lunken and some neighbors are preparing to fight, complaining about the noise the additional flights would create.
Green Township awaits big change
Meanwhile on North Bend Road in Green Township, there’s going to be “a new rhythm of life around the hospital”, according to planner Adam Goetzman.
Goetzman and other Green Township officials hope and expect this will be another case where the outcomes aren’t as bad as the opponents feared.
About 12-hundred people will work at the hospital, making it the largest employer in Green Township. The $240 million dollar, 250-bed hospital opens on November 10. Mercy West has invited neighbors to an open house on October 19.