Tuesday night’s City Council chambers became the scene of the classic Not in My Backyard (NIMBY) nonsense that tends to surround the location of many group homes and shelters. While many genuflect and pay homage to helping others through shelters and homes, when it comes to locating such an establishment in a neighborhood, the generosity tends to take a flying leap out the window and the NIMBY syndrome rears its head.
Such was the case when Charis House decided to relocate its women and children’s shelter to a vacant, littered piece of land on the west side of Wells Street just to the north of the Wells Street bridge. The current shelter located on W. Washington Blvd. is unable to keep up with its mission of providing for homeless women and children. The new shelter will double the bed capacity from 44 to 88, but the choice of location has caused Wells Street business organizations to cry foul.
In order to build on the location, the City Council must approve of the vacating of Fairmount Place – a short, not quite dead-end street that is surrounded by dirt, grime, and overgrowth – located at the southern end of the Wells Street business corridor.
Using potential future development along the banks of the St. Marys River near the Charis House location – albeit hidden by an earthen levee – as the reasoning behind their opposition, the merchants argued that City Council should not approve the vacating of Fairmount Street on the theory that vacating the street would destroy the only way future business and development could reach the undeveloped river bank property.
What really is going on is the dislike for the idea of a shelter being built in the area. The Google image above shows the location of Fairmount Place with Commerce Street just to the north. The Charis House building site – composed of a 30,600 square foot shelter and its surroundings – would straddle the vacated street and extend to the north of the street.
The Wells Street business owners argue that the completed site will cut off access to future river bank development; however, what has to be kept in mind is that an earthen levee prevents a view of the river in the area to which the business owners refer. Even though the levee stands between a view of the river and any development that might arise in that area, reference was still made to the deck at Hall’s Gas House and Club Soda, presumably to create in the minds of those to be swayed of the potential for a similar view along the strip of land in question.
Frankly, I don’t get the connection since the wonderful Hall’s deck – better known as Nick’s Lounge – is built right on the edge of the St. Marys River with no intervening levee, and Club Soda was not originally a restaurant with a view. But the connection I do get – whether the Wells Street business owners want to admit it or not – it the connection between a shelter and the all-to-alive-and-well NIMBY syndrome.