NIMBY hysteria

February 07, 1992

It may well be that the people who lashed out at a meeting at the Rodgers Forge Elementary School Wednesday are a small and unrepresentative group. We hope so. At issue is a house in the 7100 block of York Road, purchased last week by the Sheppard Pratt Health System, which the facility intends to use as an alternative living unit.

Three outpatients from Sheppard Pratt, located about a mile away from the property, would call the three-bedroom residence home for a year while they complete their recovery from such illnesses as eating disorders, severe depression and schizophrenia. They will have undergone at least a month of inpatient treatment and be screened by professionals before moving in. They will work and attend treatment programs. There will be daily telephone and in-person contact by hospital personnel.

Their presence might not even have been noticed if Sheppard Pratt hadn't called the meeting to answer questions. In fact, two similar facilities already exist in Rodgers Forge, but they are virtually unknown because there have been no problems.

Nonetheless, what should have been an educational evening alleviating community concerns turned into a circus. One woman proposed the community association supervise the residents to

be sure they took their medicine. Another suggested the association have the right to pry into the medical histories of those residents. The most telling, however, was a woman sporting a "Defend Life" T-shirt who kept saying that these people should be kept out of the neighborhood.

Those who exhibited a modicum of rationality worried that property values would tumble. Yet even when assured by a Sheppard Pratt official that national studies prove such homes do not affect property values or cause increased crime, many simply refused to concede.

Still others argued that the home might be considered a business and would ruin the residential character of the neighborhood. These are the same people, however, who bank at one of three financial institutions a couple blocks away, or pick up a quart of milk at two nearby convenience stores, or fill up at the gas station and patronize the ice-cream parlor and the cleaner, all just north of the controversial property. Who's kidding whom? This stretch of Rodgers Forge, right on York Road, is in no way a pristine suburb.

Ironically, Sheppard Pratt does not need community approval to put three people up in a house it owns. The hostile response to its attempt to be a good neighbor to the community is little more than thinly veiled NIMBY hysteria.

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