The recent decision by the Lewis County commissioners to deny the rezoning request by the YMCA at Mineral Lake is baffling.
To be fair, I’ve got to give the anti-rezoning citizens of Mineral a big round of applause for their tenacity, determination and effective organizing in working to keep their community the way they like it. Very effective community organizing.
That being said, the County Commissioners were dead wrong in their decision to deny rezoning.
The YMCA proposal was an opportunity for economic development that fell into the county’s lap, only to be dismissively swatted aside by the commissioners.
What about our county’s need for economic development? It doesn’t appear that serious analysis of the potential economic benefits to Lewis County as a whole factored strongly into earlier discussions or into the final, formal hearing in front of the commissioners (judging by the Chronicle’s coverage at least).
Lacking that kind of specific analysis, common sense can still help us understand the possibilities. A YMCA camp is bound to require construction of an extensive facility. How many local contractors and people in the trades would have secured lucrative work helping to build the new facility, bringing a much needed influx of outside investment into our local communities?
How about the estimated 100 ongoing jobs at the camp once built? Or the increased revenue for businesses along the main driving routes from campers and their families driving in and out of the county?
What the commissioners encountered at the rezoning hearing from Mineral residents was a perfect example of NIMBY — “Not In My Back Yard” — an entirely predictable response to change and growth. But the commissioners are responsible for taking a wider view, weighing the needs and wishes of a few local residents against the wider economic benefits to the county as a whole.
Reading the questions and comments of Commissioner Sean Swope, especially, I’m left scratching my head at his obvious resistance. How much more wholesome does a potential project get than a summer camp run by the YMCA? As a reminder, that stands for Young Men’s Christian Association, whose mission statement is “to put Christian principles into practice through programs that build healthy spirit, mind and body for all.”
Where does Commissioner Swope see the threat of “indoctrination?” Similarly, his questions about critical race theory, gender reassignment surgery and defunding the police made no sense in the context of rezoning.
Why precisely did the commissioners reject the rezoning proposal and a solid economic development opportunity grounded in the natural beauty of our rural county? If a summer camp for kids run by a Christian nonprofit organization doesn’t align closely enough with Lewis County values, what would?
How many more projects will the commissioners squash for no substantive or discernible reasons in order to placate the NIMBY mindset, to the detriment of the county’s larger economic needs?
With decisions like this one, it’s no surprise that our county continues to trudge along and struggle economically.