Clintonville has long been making news for its near hysterical opposition to any change whatsoever. The fight over the North Broadway turn lane has become something of legend, and the neighborhood freak outs over everything from the Indianola Avenue road diet to the Olympic Pool saga have become nearly standard procedure.
This week, Clintonville’s notorious NIMBYism once again popped its ugly head in the news, this time about Columbus’ plan to install rain gardens in the neighborhood.
The story is a classic.
First, let’s look at some of the backstory to this outrage. All the way back in 2005, Columbus submitted a plan to the Ohio EPA called the Wet Weather Management Plan. The gist of the plan was the actions the city would take to reduce sewage overflows into rivers and streams during heavy rains, as well as reducing pollution runoff. For years, heavy rains would cause sewers to back up into the Scioto and Olentangy rivers, as well as causing pollution runoff from streets, parking lots and other surfaces. At times, this pollution would cause very unpleasant odors throughout the Downtown area, as well as along the rivers themselves. Coinciding with the city’s desire to create a more inviting riverfront (which it would later do with the Scioto Mile and Scioto Greenways projects), it had to create infrastructure to solve the pollution issues.
One of the biggest ways this was accomplished was by drilling a 5.4 mile tunnel under Downtown that would fully prevent all of the sewage overflows. Begun in 2007, the project took 8 years and $371 million to complete. You can read a bit more about that project here: http://www.dispatch.com/article/20150912/NEWS/309129781
In 2015, when the overflow problem was solved, the city came up with an updated plan called Blueprint Columbus. This plan continued to address runoff problems, specifically with the creation of a network of rain gardens throughout the city. If you’re unaware, rain gardens are basically special, landscaped ditches that function as water filters. They block runoff and help prevent flooding, and would potentially save the city millions of dollars in the long run. Check out the Blueprint Columbus plan here: https://www.columbus.gov/utilities/projects/blueprint/ There’s a ton of information there, including the locations of many of the proposed rain gardens… which brings us back to Clintonville. In 2016, Clintonville found out it would be hosting as many as 500 rain gardens in the initial pilot rollout that will eventually include 17 areas of the city: http://www.dispatch.com/article/20160110/NEWS/301109834
Almost immediately, the complaints began to pour in. At meetings during the summer of 2015, residents had already begun the fear-mongering outrage. It wasn’t until this year, however, that Clintonville really began to earn that long-standing reputation. Construction of the rain gardens began over the summer, and they not only were built in the grassy easements in front of houses, but some were built right into the street, removing parking spaces and creating zones where traffic would be forced to slow down. Residents were apoplectic.
Not so bad, right? And if they help clean the water, reduce flooding costs and beautify the neighborhood, what’s the problem? Plenty, according to Clintonville residents.
In the Dispatch article, residents called them everything from “unsightly” to “toxic dumps”, while another article, http://www.thisweeknews.com/news/20171016/over-my-dead-body-rain-garden-rage-continues called them an outrageous example of big government overreach, as well as a potential danger to toddlers.
My favorite comment, however, was this one:
“That’s a real problem, that this is an experiment,” he said. “If they want to do an experiment, do it somewhere else — not on these homes. I am seriously considering moving.”
If that isn’t the epitome of irrational NIMBYism, I don’t know what is. Ironically, should that resident move, he’d have absolutely no trouble selling it. Clintonville is an urban neighborhood in a growing, desirable city. Given the record low housing inventory for sale in the area, he’d probably get top dollar for it.
As for why Clintonville is so irrationally opposed to any and all change? Perhaps because it has long been an insular community. Demographics there have been one of the steadiest in the county, let alone the city. It is among the least diverse and has one of the highest median ages of neighborhood populations in the city by far, even including suburbs. Things simply don’t change there, and many seem to vehemently want it to stay that way. However, change is always inevitable. Perhaps Clintonville should save its energy for *actual* nefarious practices, not imagined ones.