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Jeff Whitten: Nothing wrong with NIMBY
editor's notes

You may recall the avalanche of recent back-patting when Gov. Brian Kemp announced electric vehicle maker Rivian is bringing a $5 billion manufacturing plant to the state.

More specifically, the plant is aimed at a 2,000-acre site between Morgan and Walton counties – a mostly rural spot a county or two east of Atlanta and not far from the Oconee National Forest.

Well, it turns out a vocal supply of people there don’t want Rivian in their back yard.

The local paper, the Morgan County Citizen, reported Jan. 26 that an active and determined anti-Rivian group has already raised more than $125,000 to get a lawyer to fight the planned plant. It pains me to say this, but it’s probably an exercise in futility.

They’ll most likely lose whatever case they present and their great-grandkids will be doomed to a future in some southern-fried Detroit or Akron. At least they’re not going down without fighting back.

Naturally, the notion of regular people standing in the way of projects deemed by the big shots who make such decisions is sometimes derided as NIMBY-ism, which is an acronym for Not In My Backyard, with “ism” tacked on the end.

Sometimes it is meant to imply the folks who holler NIMBY are selfish people who could care less about the greater good, or anybody else’s good, for that matter.

But, being for or against NIMBY is like most real estate transactions in that it’s all about location.

For example, if you’re wealthy enough to live in an tony upscale neighborhood full of important people and a biker gang wants to open a combination clubhouse/topless beer joint/biker’s BnBnBnB – up to you to guess which B stands for what – in that wooded lot behind you, chances are you’re going to be saying NIMBY as loud as you can holler.

What’s more, you’ll likely find local government on your side. On flip side, if some company that smelts elderly cows into upscale catfood for a living decides to erect a state of the art, billion dollar 4,000 acre cow-smeltering plant out in the country near some poor folks rural neighborhood, on the promise of thousands of jobs and millions in tax revenue, their cries will likely go unheeded, and many of the same people who fussed about a biker’s BnBnBnB in their neighborhood will be wondering why the fuss because, hey, we need jobs.

The end result is if you’re just regular people who live on a couple acres in a doublewide because you kind of like being away from everybody else, well, tough luck. You’ll get used to all the traffic and noise and litter and drug-addled hobos.

Now that I think about it, this is how Pooler happened. Sane, rational regular people weren’t paying attention to all the residential development until it was too late and all those rooftops led to that mess by I-95, and now whenever they try to object they’re accused of NIMBY-ism.

Do I know where I’m going with this? Nope. I know only that not all needs are needs, and not all economic development is equal or fair or good for us or the future generations who’ll have to live with whatever mess we’re making now. And don’t even get me started on the environment.

Regardless of where you may stand on economic progress, if that’s what it is – whether it’s the Rivian announcement, the port’s explosive growth, the Mega-Site out at I-16 in Black Creek or the Belfast Keller interchange and all that land out there fixing to become whatever high-faluting destination it’s saying it’s going to become – none of that happens without a real cost to real people.

In the case of the ports, spend a day in Blitchton in traffic on Highway 80 if you want to see how it impacts folks in that still somewhat rural part of Bryan County.

Heck, take a spin on 80 into Effingham County, and then into Chatham County, and count the semis. You’d be amazed.

Note: if there’s a shortage of truck drivers in this world, it might be because they’re all over there in Blitchton, trying to dodge the scales on I-16.

And in the case of that new Belfast Keller interchange, well, one day it’ll be as crowded and dangerous to drive past as the interchanges on 17 and 144 are now. And it’ll happen faster than anybody really wants it to.

So good for those NIMBY folks up in Morgan County fighting to keep what they hold dear. Somebody has to do it, before it’s too late.

Whitten is editor of the Bryan County News and does not like development and progress to the point his wife is starting to call him a codger.

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