We had made our case, each of us taking turns to walk up to the podium to explain why we were opposed to the next phase of development in our community which would involve building yet another multistory apartment building in an environmentally sensitive area of wetlands bordering our harbor. For the past five years, there has been a tsunami of apartment buildings taking over every nook and cranny of space left in our town.
We had done the best we could, given about a week’s notice, to inform about 150 local residents about the situation with flyers that provided a detailed explanation of why these dwellings are inappropriate in this part of town. My husband and I spent a couple of hours on Lincoln’s birthday delivering the flyers and talking to whomever we could find at home during the day. I spent an hour the following day distributing the remaining 30 flyers to another part of the neighborhood.
I had also called a couple of local organizations, both political and environmental, and called upon every friend I had in the community to please attend the town zoning board meeting where variances to local zoning laws would or would not be granted. Finally, I had spent a good amount of time getting my thoughts together for my speech to the zoning board. My son, who spearheaded our efforts, had already spent countless hours gathering information and resources/allies. Despite all our efforts, only one friend showed up.
My husband made the final, precise and very detailed presentation, following mine, my daughter’s, and a close friend of ours. Now it was up to the zoning board to make their decision. We were up against aggressive lawyers, developers, and a zoning board chairperson who obviously wanted to give away the store. He tried to intimidate us in every way he could.
There are 5 members on the zoning board. The last person to speak, a lawyer, instructed the board members not to pay attention to our testimony because it did not directly address the variances. “You should not let yourselves be influenced by anything you heard from the speakers not directly involved in the proposal.” I believe he said that because he knew, in his gut, that we had made a persuasive case against the apartments.
The first vote was an abstention; second vote a no; third vote (the chair) a yes; next vote a yes, followed by a no. The proposal was defeated! We were stunned. When the impact of the vote finally registered, we jumped out of our seats with excitement. All our time, effort, worry and anxiety had paid off. The chair advised the developers and lawyers to take the matter to court: “You’ll find your remedy in court.” To me this was a very loaded statement intended to insure them they had other avenues to pursue their case and would eventually win their case.
Whatever happens next, we are not going to give up. We will continue to do our best to preserve what remains of our local wetlands and the character of our funky, harborside community in the face of greed and overdevelopment. The proposed apartments are not affordable to anyone who lives and works here; essentially they are for outsiders who want to buy their way in. Gentrification is what we are talking about.
I am so proud of my family! Victory sure tasted good for a few moments. We have all taken a break the past few days…exhausted by the process…but justice prevailed. At least for now.