The Rindge Charrette
Before we get ahead of ourselves here, what is this document I'm writing about and where did it come from? What is "The Rindge Charrette?"
A group called "Plan NH" with the motto 'Visioning for Sustainable Communities' hand a couple of "Charrette Meeting" - asking the people who showed up to them (local residents who didn't have anything better to do in the middle of the work week?) how would they like to see things changed in this town. Do they want more of 'this,' do they want more of 'that'? Do they want less of one thing, more of something else?
Some critics claim that these "talking sessions" used the "Delphi Method." - PlanNH knew the results they wanted ahead of time, and group leaders directed the conversations in small groups is specific directions. If PlanNH ultimate goal was to put up shopping malls on every corner at the intersection at the center of town, they would direct the conversation to make lesser intelligent participants want such a thing and maybe go so far as plant the idea in their head using clever phrases to convince them it was the participants idea.
The final product of these meetings is the PDF document called "Defining a Town Center - Rindge New Hampshire Charrette"
I’ll admit that there are a couple of good ideas but the question remains – how are we going to pay for any of these ideas and can we take just the good ones and ignore or delete the bad ones?
“Bad ones?” you ask. On some of these maps, there are “shopping,” “business” and community centers proposed right where people already have homes and/or business already. This committee suggested that “The Town Of Rindge” seize these homes in North Rindge at “fair market value” via “Imminent domain.”
Homes and property that's been in many people's families for generations, some structures that are older than The United States itself, the last remnants of what this town used to be.
There are also aspects of this “Charrette” (the name they gave this proposal) that suggest that some parts of the town (or the whole town) be “rezoned” to accommodate smaller buildings. As it is now, you need a minimum amount of anchorage before you can build – part of this ‘proposal’ suggest that we change that minimum to just 1 acre … or a half… maybe… depends on who you ask. That (might) mean that if you own a 5 acre lot, the new zoning laws will turn that into individual 1 acre lots into 5 separate lots and thus land owner taxes (might) go up. …Depending on which expert you ask.
A small group of people actually read this proposal and have concluded that this isn’t good for this town. Then this group began to become more cohesive and called themselves "Save Our Town" and under the leadership of Larry Cleavland, started looking at other parts of the North East that have moved along with these "charrettes" and found that many of the people living in those towns discovered that this was actually a nightmare.... more on that later.
They took what they learned and made an effort to tell their friends and neighbors – “Hey, we don’t think this is good for this town, we gotta divorce it from the actual town’s master development plan.”
Before I got on the bandwagon I asked a lawyer friend of mine to read it and give me his thoughts; his conclusion that this short stack of paper is a bane for some but could be a boon for others. It could cripple some people who want to start a business out of their home, it might not. The problem with this “Charrette” is the ambiguity. If the town commits to making this their actual plan you could see your taxes go up while your property values go down.
(Again, I’m abbreviating because I’m dancing too close to 500 words here… just to the point where I might lose your attention. I bet there are some lurkers who are reading this screaming “you’re over-simplifying!” Yea… no kidding, ya think? )
Other people looked at this, didn’t like it. Some people actually spoke up at one of the town meetings I attended and said that they read it and it’s pretty clear that this contains a plan to remove them from their homes to put something in its place to give other people the sense of a community.
This past March “The Town” put it to a vote – should we keep the Charrette or exclude it from the town’s overall development plan. The voters said ‘get rid of it’ via an overwhelming majority.
Since then there have been a handful of people (some who were involved with its development) cried foul. Voting against this "Rindge Charrette" is “racist” and against “poor brown people” – says the white people who were in favor of the Charrette
To clarify – suddenly the Pro-Charrette clan now claim that these people who were against it are “racist.” The people in West Rindge who were going to be displaced via Imminent domain? According to the Pro-Charrette people: RACISTS!
On what basis does one become a racist because they don’t agree with a development plan that doesn’t mention race? White people who are for something can claim those other white people who are against must be… what? Just make something up. That’s like saying that people who don't like anchovies are UNIX experts.
Now, I asked the question publicly – how is voting this “plan” out racist? What evidence do you have that the people who don’t like this are bigoted? Give me some quotes, screenshots, audio recordings… anything to prove that the people who were against this plan are racist.
Nothing. No response… except I’m no longer “Facebook friends” of some of the people who are charging the Anti-Charrette people with racism. Well, now they’ve moved on to calling the deletion of the Charrette with book-burning, an obvious allusion to Nazism.
Nobody is saying you can't read the Rindge Charrette. Nobody is rounding up all the physical copies and burning them. In fact, I have archived the PDF on THE FEDORA CHRONICLES SERVER and I'm linking it for everyone to read. What the majority of us don't want is to have this specific document excluded from the town's 'master plan.' When deciding what projects are to be done in this town, we don't want this document to be a part of the decision-making process.
For a lot of us, this is trudging into dangerous ground. Local controversies like this – especially when it comes to politics – could also kill your career if you’re not careful taking sides. There’s a fine line between being involved with local issues because it does affect you and taking a side that’s too controversial. Some might go out of their way to ruin you for retribution for what you said and done. At the same time – as part of that balancing act – not taking aside and not being involved might be detrimental, could be misconstrued as waiting for one side to win before you pick aside.
The Pro-Charrette people in this town have taken their "activism" too far by dropping the other dreaded "N-Word." They've played their final hand and given us insight into who and what they really are; if they don't get what they want, they cry like babies and use big words I doubt they understand.
Here's something to consider - What if an ultra-conservative group did the same exact thing, held 'Charrette' meetings, and then published this same document with the same exact plans. What if an ultra-conservative group said the same thing as "PlanNH" said, we need more office buildings, more strip malls, more 'worker housing' and more parking lots. We'll even toss in another 'community center' to sweeten the deal?" And to accomplish that, this ultra-conservative group suggested that “The Town Of Rindge” seize these homes in North Rindge at “fair market value” via “Imminent domain?”
What would be the reaction?
Now, this rant is already a bit long so I'll keep this conclusion as short as I can. One of the reoccurring themes of The Fedora Chronicles is revisiting history and explore how people keep making the same mistakes over and over again. Another thing I keep exploring about how people mishandle and misuse the word "Nazi."
Wanting to live out in the middle of the country doesn't make you 'a Nazi.' Wanting to live away from the problems of urban life such as crowding, congestion, traffic, doesn't make you a Nazi.
Wanting to live far away from suburban sprawl doesn't make you 'a Nazi.'
Wanting to live when you can raise chickens, goats, fruits and vegetables doesn't make you a Nazi.
Wanting to keep your five-acre lot a five-acre lot and not allow the town to charge you for having five one-acre lots doesn't make you a Nazi.
Now, the same can't be said for the other side. Wanting to take other people's land because you feel entitled isn't going to put you on the right side of history here. Vilifying people who stand in your way from what you want isn't going to make you appear to be the good guys either.
The people who like to toss around the word "Nazi" should actually study some history and rediscover what Nazi's really were. If those people need any help they should also look into the words "Tyrants," and "Fascists."
How has your town been affected by planning board documents?