Tuesday, October 2, 2007


Various commentators in the local press and blogosphere have posed rhetorical questions concerning the attitudes of many of Athens’ citizens on the desirability of residential, commercial, and/or industrial development. With the caveat that I agree that we should not accept just anything, the answer from far too many in our community is not just NO!, but HELL, NO! about pretty much every conceivable form of development.

Quoting verbatim from a message that went out on the Historic Boulevard Neighborhood newsgroup on Yahoo last week (emphasis in original):

“The loveliest spot in town -- the rolling fields of South Milledge -- may soon be the site of a high-security and high-risk lab (called "NBAF," the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility) ---- unless YOU act to voice your opposition and concerns.

Scientists at the site would research highly contagious agents (mostly those that currently infect only animals) for which there is no cure. The facility would be RUN BY HOMELAND SECURITY. And it would be the size of 5 WALMARTS.

That much impervious surface area is a terrible threat to the Oconee River, which is nearby and downhill from the proposed site.

The facility would need about 75 THOUSAND GALLONS of water EACH DAY.

You have to act fast!”

Though I do not doubt the sincerity of the sentiment, I do question the nature of the rhetoric. And if Pete has his way, these self-appointed protectors of our community will continue to torpedo any such bio-tech development efforts.

This sentiment would seem to be in line with most of the letters to the Banner-Herald’s editor, which are running heavily against locating the NBAF facility in Athens. See here, here, here, here, here, and here.

The reasons given for opposing NBAF are legion: it will release dangerous pathogens into the community, it will use too much water, it will destroy the hallowed Greenbelt, it will increase traffic, it will make Athens a target for terrorists, blah, blah blah.

For comments in the local blogosphere, see Blake’s entries here, here, here, and here, as well as at Safe As Houses, and Athens Chat.

It seems that I frequently disagree with Banner-Herald editorial editor Jim Thompson these days, but he is right on the money with this one. Jim quotes Doc Eldridge, former Athens Mayor and current president of the Athens Area Chamber of Commerce, as asking, “If not this, then what?” It is a damn good question that too many in our fair city cannot (or will not) address. Our community has spent years positioning itself as a would-be bio-tech center – apparently for naught.

Of course, opposition to a new industry should come as no surprise, given that we routinely oppose the operation or expansion of existing industries (i.e., CertainTeed and Nakanishi Manufacturing). We tell them that, even though your current operations and planned expansions are in full compliance with federal EPA and state EDP regulations, we still don’t want you. And then we wonder why we cannot lure other manufacturers to our fair city.

In non-NBAF NIMBY/BANANA news, we have opposition to expanding our landfill despite the fact that it is running out of space, taking yet more projected sewer lines out of the Public Utilities Service Delivery Plan so as to discourage development, shelving most of the recommendations of that $50,000 study designed to alleviate traffic on the eastside for fear of increasing said traffic, and halting development on Milledge Avenue due to historic preservation concerns.

Finally, this one is not about NBAF or NIMBYs, but it does concern economic development. It appears that yet another potential taker has passed on the Orkin Tract. This time it was Solvay Pharmaceuticals. I’ve lost count of haw many other industries have done likewise.

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Anonymous said...

Nobody bothered to plan for drought and they sure didn't plan to provide a workforce for any of these industries they are hoping to lure. At least Mayor Davison looks good in a shawl.

Anonymous said...

Um...unless you have 0% unemployment, I don't think you have to plan to provide a workforce. The general idea in our country is that if jobs are available, people that need jobs will find them. By the way, if you have never learned from experience, Athens is a pretty sorry town to try to find a job in-especially if you are not a college student willing to work for $8.75/hr.

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