These days most everyone agrees we have an affordable housing crisis in Collier County. Home prices have skyrocketed, rents are out of sight and more of our neighborsare being forced to pack up and move to less expensive areas, often out of the county.
Yet public hearings to consider neighbors have become bloodbaths, often terminated before the plans are even explained. Agitated neighbors fill the meeting rooms blocking all conversation.
Folks with questions are overwhelmed by staunch opponents who have dismissed the possibility of compromise, out of hand.
How do we equate these two disparate concepts? We urgently need more affordable housing, yet some among us are unwilling to even consider it.
How do we ever get out of this hole we’ve dug for ourselves?
There are consequences for this behavior and they aren’t good.
The term NIMBY (“not in my back yard”) has been around for a long time. It describes a condition where reason is replaced by recklessness. It denies a property owner’s right to do something- anything – with the valuable land he owns. And it refuses to consider others may be entitled to the same lifestyle as the guy who happened to get there first and insists the door should be locked behind him.
Picture this – it’s 3 AM and you hear a noise in your house, or you just awoke with chest pains. Or the pool guy didn’t show up, your dog groomer is booked, you’ve been seated in a restaurant for 20 minutes and no one took your drink order.
We live in beautiful Collier County – currently rated among the best places in the world – and are almost totally dependent upon thousands of folks who can no longer afford to live here. No, this isn’t new. But they used to be able to live within commuting distance.
First it was Bonita Springs and Estero that became unaffordable. Now Cape Coral is growing into one of our nation’s new discoveries. Hendry and Charlotte Counties are now in our backyards?
Every day 45,000 of our Collier County workers fill the roadways commuting to apartments in other counties. Each will tolerate these conditions only until a job near home presents itself.
Ultimately something will be built on that piece of vacant land you are fighting to protect. A housing subdivision might be far preferable to a strip mall, gas station and car wash. And you may regret you didn’t engage that developer in some discussions, to understand and perhaps obtain changes in whatever he was originally proposing to build.
Living collaboratively in neighborhoods doesn’t mean we all always get what we want. Nor should the guy or gal who screams the loudest get to decide how the rest of us will live.
Joe Trachtenberg is chairman of Collier County’s Affordable Housing Advisory Committee and past board chairman of St Matthew’s House. He has been a resident of Naples since 2004.