Thursday, April 19, 2007

The Power of Neighbors

Well, we did it.....the construction project has been stopped! For a week anyway. There was a packed house at the meeting. Well, 16 people, plus the 5 members of the township planning board, but almost all the chairs were filled. The owner of the business did not show up, his general contractor was the representative. I was slightly pissed as I watched one of the board members read my letter and scoff at the words "environmental disaster" which I used to describe this building project. Then four of us neighbors got the opportunity to stand up and voice our concerns. Neighbor Glenn (who lives closest) spoke of his noise concerns, I and Anne (my neighbor 2 houses down) voiced our concerns about how much light would shine into our houses and the complete removal of all trees and vegetation on the property, but I think the neighbor whose words swayed the board the most was neighbor Dan who lives downhill from all of us and has gotten all the runoff in his yard since all the trees and vegetation were removed with the grading process.

Anyway after all discussion and the fact that the grade map was incorrect and actually indicated that water would run uphill to a culvert under the highway, it was decided that there were some serious issues that needed to be resolved before this project could continue. The board members have planned to meet with neighbor Dan next Tuesday in his yard to see the runoff damage. I may just happen to wander down there and see what sort of discussion takes place.

I was pleased that they felt my concerns about the security lighting were valid and at the next meeting they will bring information about the defused (do they mean 'diffused?') and downward lighting and also the candlepower that these lights will project.

I certainly don't think they expected quite as many people would show up. The meeting remained calm, although inwardly I was quite fired up and I could sense neighbor Dan was also. I think this was the first time some of these guys on the board had seen the grade maps and other information, so when we all brought the concerns and issues out in the open, they seemed to be caught off-guard. I'm pretty sure the general contractor for this construction project will have a really interesting day tomorrow! I sure wouldn't want to be the guy going to my customer and telling them that the work will have to stop for a week -- especially when they're working under a deadline.

In case you're interested, here's the content of the letter I sent to the Township Planning Board upon receipt of the postcard informing us of the public hearing. I put a picture of the project on the entire top half of the piece of paper and then wrote my letter below (I handwrote above the picture that the photo was taken from my deck on 4-9-07).

Got your note today regarding the public hearing for the new Dave Syverson Truck Dealership. Looks like a “done deal” from where I’m standing. I’m pretty sure they’re probably going to have a building up by the time the public hearing occurs on April 19th. I’m definitely an “interested party” because this environmental disaster is happening literally in my backyard, but I’m sure any objections I might have wouldn’t stop a project that was already started last year. Perhaps you could schedule these meetings a little bit earlier so objections by High Forest township residents might actually be considered.

Yes, I agree, this letter sounds really pissy, but dammit, we've invested almost 20 years of hard work, pain and sweat into these 5 acres and it really, really pisses me off when businesses think they can just come in and do whatever the hell they want because they have a lot of money and this area just happens to be zoned commercial. Sometimes it really sucks to be the little guy, but for 1 week at least us "little guys" brought big business to its knees. (Sorry Mom & Dad about the profanity....)

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