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This week’s edition!

Enough is Enough: Project that would benefit seniors falls prey to “NIMBY”

By Robert E. Macdonald

Mayor of Lewiston

A week ago last Tuesday was a sad day in our quest to move Lewiston forward economically. The Lewiston City Council killed the type of development that has never materialized during the five-and-a-half years I have served as mayor.

This was a project by a private developer that did not ask for any federal, state or local tax money. Any and all costs were coming out of the developer’s pocket. Unlike many other developments throughout the city, whose purpose is the bottom line, Louis Ouellette’s objective was to provide quality apartments for his mother-in-law and some of her friends.

These tenants would have been seniors that were widowed or couples that realize the home in which they raised their families had outgrown them, necessitating them to downsize. This is due in part to their decreased ability to maintain their current homes.

This development would have set Lewiston on a path of fulfilling what AARP and Forbes Magazine have touted about Lewiston—it’s a great place to retire. The successful completion of this project would have helped silence local critics whose attitudes reflect and add reinforcement to our city’s derogatory moniker, “The Dirty Lew.” This was to be a development for people who could be characterized as financially sound.

This is similar to what I wrote in a previous column about finding a location for a new high school in Lowell, Massachusetts, to replace the current high school, which was close to 100-years-old, when a cry arose from the neighborhood. It was a very loud cry used to kill many needed economic projects: NIMBY—“not in my backyard.”

I thank these neighbors for appointing one person to read their complaints during this hearing. Listening to this litany, while I found some complaints legitimate, the bulk of the complaints were a stretch, reminding me of Chicken Little running around yelling “the sky is falling.”

Examples were: cars broken into overnight in a neighborhood several blocks away; a traffic accident on one of the streets bordering the development; and the shooting at an apartment building on East Avenue. After listening to the presentation, I wondered if we were talking about a senior housing development or a hideout for the Over the Hill Gang?

In a 3-4 vote, the development was killed.

I compliment the Lewiston Planning Board and city staff for the many hours they spent on this project. These hours were spent to ensure the project was neighborhood friendly, with staff dotting all the I’s and crossing the T’s before presenting the city council with a favorable recommendation. But, alas, NIMBY prevailed.

Prior to discussing the agenda items at every meeting, a public comment period is held. At this time, members of the public may speak about any city issues not on the agenda. Each person is allowed up to 15 minutes to speak.

During my time as mayor, anyone who wants to speak is allowed. This becomes galling when a person uses the time to promote themselves as a “champion of the poor.”

This happened last Tuesday when a person who had been told the day before that the city pool was now free to all city kids, spent 14 minutes to plead the pool should be free to inner-city children.

The meeting lasted until 11 p.m. I encourage anyone that if they want to be heard on a legitimate item, please come to speak. If you are coming to promote yourself as some type of social champion, please consider those who have given up their personal time to address the city council on issues very important to them.

City staff, city councilors and those waiting to speak on the public agenda had to work the next morning. It was selfish to add time to the meeting. I would suggest that instead of people using city airtime to promote themselves, I think it would be better for all if they purchased time on cable.

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