Recent NIMBY

The topic became my white whale. I came close to conquering it when I wrote Nimby Lane in 2015. Even then I joked about my problem, my seeming inability to write an article about the NIMBY phenomenon even after several attempts. NIMBY stood for "not in my back yard." In that earlier article we established that the acronym even appeared outside of the United States. Subsequent research also showed that it seemed to be transitioning from an all-caps NIMBY to a lowercase nimby. I think I’ll make that adjustment too.

It might be worth repeating the definition as listed in That could be helpful to readers who don’t speak English natively. It’s used to describe:

… opposition by local citizens to the locating in their neighborhood of a civic project, as a jail, garbage dump, or drug rehabilitation center, that, though needed by the larger community, is considered unsightly, dangerous, or likely to lead to decreased property values.

Anyway, the day finally arrived! Today I offer my nimby article at long last. The solution, once I discovered it, came easy. I simply typed nimby into Google and selected news. I chose examples only from the initial page of results as they appeared in front of me. Your results will vary.

I don’t mean to imply that any of these stories actually qualified as examples of nimby behavior. I’m not making value judgments. However, somebody though they did or the news articles never would have been published.

Falls Church, Virginia

Railroad Cottages
No to Railroad Cottages. My own photo.

Actually I noticed the first example in person before I ever saw it online. I spotted little placards stuck along the side of the Washington & Old Dominion trail as I biked through Falls Church a few days ago. They read, "No to Railroad Cottages." I didn’t give them another thought until my recent search results popped-up some commentary about them, Cottage Criticism is Just More NIMBY Opposition. I think Google fed it to me because of my geographic proximity.

The City of Falls Church provided more detail about the Railroad Cottages Project. Ten small standalone houses would cluster closely together around common open space and a social interaction building. It would cater to residents aged 55 years and older. The 1.3 acre triangular lot sat at the eastern end of Railroad Avenue, hugging the W&OD trail (map). Supporters cited it as an example of smart growth that also allowed city residents to downsize as they aged. Opponents worried about traffic, parking, density, noise, emergency response, displacement of flora and fauna, and diminished property values.

The lot also hid an interesting history. An African-American family purchased it just after the Civil War and retained ownership for the next 150 years. The man who sold the lot to developers was the great-great-great grandson of the person who first bought it for $75 in 1865.

Snow River, Kenai Peninsula, Alaska

Moose Pass
Moose Pass. My own photo.

Next I came across The NIMBY state on Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula. Twelve Mile Circle visited the area back in 2010 so I paid particular attention. Huge numbers of people traveled down to the Kenai each summer for salmon fishing. Fishermen needed guides, equipment, food and places to stay, so tourism dollars fueled a huge part of the local economy.

People got angry when they heard that the Chugach Electric Association wanted to consider damming the Snow River (map) near Moose Pass. As the article noted, "Dam is a four-letter word worse than the f-word in that community." This one would reach 300 feet high and 700 feet across, too. Chugach Electric hoped to figure out whether a dam might actually increase salmon along the Snow River. Theoretically a better controlled river could improve spawning channels. However, that question will always remain a mystery. The public outcry forced Chugach Electric to abandon its effort. Citizens felt the risk to the local economy was too great.

Rainford, St Helens, Merseyside, England

Rainford - farm in the snow
Rainford – farm in the snow. Photo by Ian McFegan on Flickr (cc)

One person at least proclaimed she was Proud to be a Nimby in Rainford, England (map). This came in response to social media statements made by a member of the St. Helens Council. The Councillor remarked, "As I say you are nimby’s," referring to members of the Rainford Action Group. The group opposed turning over some of the village’s green belt to developers to build more than a thousand homes. It cited loss of agricultural land and jobs, as well as "extra pressure on our roads, surgeries, dentists, drains, or schools." The battle raged on.

Devonport, Auckland, New Zealand

Aukland from Across the Bay
Auckland seen from Devonport. Photo by Jeremy Oakley on Flickr (cc)

The nimby phenomenon existed in New Zealand too. There I found Nimby wars: everyone’s a winner in Devonport, or are they? Ryman Healthcare wanted to build a retirement village on a vacant parcel in suburban Aukland, along the scenic Ngataringa Bay (map). Opponents didn’t so much care for the design aesthetics, and they also feared the impact on endangered plants. Plus they claimed it would cut the neighborhood in half. This situation seemed to have resulted in a happier ending than most. Ryman Healthcare agreed to a number of design changes that pleased most, although not all local residents.

Maybe I’ll run this experiment again in a few months and see how much the results change. Maybe I won’t.

Not Fusion, CONfusion

I remember reading through my mother’s old High School yearbook years ago when I was a child. I recall only one detail that has stuck with me ever since. The yearbook had a disproportionate number of advertisements sponsored by furniture stores that doubled as funeral parlors. I didn’t pay attention to the well-wishes of her classmates, or the candid photographs of the marching band, or the triumphs of the football team. Even then, all those many years ago,it was the the unusual juxtaposition that attracted my attention. I suppose odd hybrid stores with mixed purposes were a lot more prevalent in farm country back in the 1950’s, at least a generation before Walmart swept them all away.

One should not be surprised therefore to learn that I found a similar fascination with a Google Street View image that I crossed yesterday evening as I researched an entirely different subject.[1]

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I’d discovered Meh’s Canadian & Chinese Cuisine in Tatamagouche, Nova Scotia. I tried to find their menu on a website to learn the secret of their oddly bifurcated cuisine but I left disappointed after fruitless searching. I’m continuously amazed to find Chinese restaurants in even the smallest, most remote and undoubtedly obscure towns that I’ve ever visited.

I know of a similar odd combination closer to home.

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I pass the New Moon Salvadorean – Mexican – Chinese Restaurant about once a week. My sons always point to the sign as we drive by, not because they comprehend the unusual combination but because they know its excites me so much to see it. The restaurateurs actually do have a website and they revel in their unique cuisine: "Enjoy some Pupusa Revueltas with your Shrimp Fried Rice or try some Steamed Meat Dumplings with your Carne Asada." A diner on one of the online rating sites commented that it’s not fusion, it’s confusion. Others responded that it’s not supposed to be a fusion cuisine at all. Nothing is being fused. The owners are appealing to two completely different clientele using a single storefront.

Like, furniture shop and funeral parlor.

I’ve never eaten there but it I’ll provide some incentive to any County Counters in the audience to give it a shot: it’s located in Falls Church, an independent city that’s considered the smallest county-equivalent entity in the United States. It counts the same as San Bernardino although ten thousand times smaller.

If anyone knows of other weird business combinations, go ahead and post them in the comments. Extra credit goes to posts that include a Street View link or embedded Flickr image.

[1]I usually work on several blog postings simultaneously. I can’t determine when a new topic might catch my attention and push me down a completely different path for awhile. Eventually I’ll get back on track. I’ll be sure to come up with a suitable honor for anyone who can guess my original line of my research. Hint: it has nothing to do with Canadian or Chinese cuisine.

A Geo-Oddity Holiday Celebration

I faced a dilemma on the 4th of July holiday this year. I’d celebrated in style last year with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to view the spectacular Washington, DC show from a rooftop balcony. How could I top that for Independence Day 2010? Well, the answer is I couldn’t. The only way I could improve upon that remarkable achievement would be to transform somehow into the guy who got to ignite all the fireworks.

That didn’t dissuade me from having a good time. We jumped at the opportunity when friends invited us to their home for some hospitality and to see the nearby City of Falls Church fireworks display. Followers of the Twelve Mile Circle might recognize that location. The City of Falls church is an important geo-oddity that anchors a major endpoint of a wide continuum: at two square miles, it is the smallest county-equivalent geographic unit in the United States. I was going to see the fireworks in a genuine geo-anomaly! Woo-hoo! Well sort of, kind of… read on.

The City of Falls Church presented a surprisingly decent fireworks display.

Fireworks Show

Falls Church, simply because it’s the smallest, is hugely important to people who focus on county-related geographic hobbies including Counters, Highpointers and Amateur Radio Hunters. I’m a relentless County Counter myself, as are several active participants on this website. I’ve even highpointed a few. I’ve personally highpointed the City of Falls Church, which isn’t much of a noteworthy achievement when someone happens to be in the area.

Police Falls Church

I’ve been within the actual borders of the independent City of Falls Church hundreds of times over the years. Still, l can’t seem to pass up an opportunity to document it. Here is a police trailer owned by the smallest county-equivalent geographic unit in the United States. Jealous yet? Therapy is available for those of you who answered "yes."

We walked over from the home of our friends to the the city’s only high school. Falls Church also has only a single middle school and two elementary schools. That’s all they need to cover the needs of their 11,000 residents. Such is life in a two mile square. In fact, Falls Church exists as an independent entity principally because the local residents wanted local control over these schools.

The fireworks would be best viewed from the high school football field.

George Mason High School Football

People packed densely onto the surface of the football field, spreading out blankets and filling the artificial turf from one end to another, goalpost to sideline. It seems like a huge crowd but it’s deceiving. That’s the entire crowd.

It’s amazing to consider that several hundred thousand people were crowding the National Mall in Washington, DC, at that very moment, less than ten miles down the road. Here it seemed like small-town America, a scene replicated thousands of times across a great continent that same evening. If anything, this is the norm and the National Mall is the anomaly.

One might wonder how such a small city can sustain such an impressive display. Unfortunately it can’t. There won’t be a show next year due to budget cuts. It’s an extravagance that hit the chopping block in a tough economy. What will I do next year on July 4?

I’m going to tell you a little secret, but let’s keep it to yourselves. The City of Falls Church is so small that it doesn’t have room for a high school within its own boundaries. The parcel is contiguous with Falls Church but the school is actually located in neighboring Fairfax County.

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I’m not sure what kind of agreement had to be struck to allow that arrangement but I think this may count as a rare and coveted double geo-oddity. Falls Church is a genuine geo-oddity in its own right and the high school is a tangential oddity springing forth from the greater oddity.