By Jeb Bladine • President / Publisher • 

Jeb Bladine: 2014 NIMBY caution just as relevant today

Two weeks ago, without warning, a contingent of farm owners appeared to present county commissioners with an array of concerns about the Yamhelas Westsider Trail project. We could ask what kind of organizing effort was involved, and we could wonder why project developers didn’t know in advance about the planned presentations.

However, it’s more productive simply to repeat some comments from this space in February 2014, which contemplated the “NIMBY” challenges facing organizers of the Westsider project. Here are just a few excerpts from that column:

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Jeb Bladine is president and publisher of the News-Register.

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“Yamhelas Westsider Trail, a 17-mile recreational trail proposed from McMinnville to Gaston, has officially entered its NIMBY stage.

“NIMBY, of course, stands for ‘not in my backyard.’ The acronym, often used as a pejorative label, looks and sounds like an expression of scorn, but actually, ‘the NIMBY syndrome’ is as American as proverbial apple pie.

“It’s no surprise that there’s some opposition to a recreational trail by owners of adjacent private property. Yamhelas supporters, to their credit, recognize the importance of engaging those property owners. They know that many a project has failed because that kind of communication was mishandled, or simply didn’t happen.”

Yamhill County Commissioners Allen Springer and Stan Primozich have steadfastly supported the visionary Westsider Trail project, but Commissioner Mary Starrett has fought the plan every step of the way. She even voted against county acceptance of an outside grant for the project.

Jump ahead to 2016: The Yamhelas project has strong support both locally and statewide, and its backers continue their fundraising efforts. A 2-1 vote by commissioners has pledged county financial support shouldthose efforts fall short.

For our part, we provided News-Register editorial support for the project in 2013, in 2014, and again in 2015 — support that is unchanged today. But considering the recent presentation to commissioners, that NIMBY caution is just as relevant today as it was in 2014, perhaps more so. Again:

“Yamhelas supporters, to their credit, recognize the importance of engaging those property owners. They know that many a project has failed because that kind of communication was mishandled, or simply didn’t happen.”

No matter how much public outreach there is, people will show up at key times complaining that they didn’t know about the plan, or were not allowed to participate in the planning process. The surprise visit by opponents to the county commission was a reminder to project supporters that communication with neighboring property owners must continue all along the way.

Jeb Bladine can be reached at jbladine@newsregister.com or 503-687-1223.

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