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Where the Heart Is

A spiritual crisis is at hand as I spar on Facebook with my friends and neighbors about plans for yet another development, this time a forty-six lot development, in the undisturbed wooded land across the road from our home in Surfside, on Nantucket Island. It will sprawl across nine acres of land, abutting another development, both of them surrounding an Indian Burial Ground.

We are finding out about it at the eleventh hour, a month before it will come before the Town Meeting. I’m finding out because the FinCom just voted it down, amid rising concerns that such an immense project could bottom out an already soft real estate market. The voters still get to decide its final fate later this month at Annual Town Meeting.

We knew of plans, but we didn’t know the details. We never received a mailing even though we are right next door.

In some ways it felt easier not to know, not to try to find out. We had a baby now, we were exhausted all the time, busy living our lives, and we were frankly emotionally exhausted by the idea of yet another onslaught of development in the neighborhood, another psychic battle as loud, stinking trucks and machines are brought in, as trees are razed and grass is sprayed on and tar, lots and lots of tar, is poured everywhere.

We watched as first a bike path was put in. Then senior living facility was put in, soon followed by a Forty-B, each time pouring more tar, tar, tar across the rustic dirt roads. We heard the constant cutting and sawing, the whir of machines. We watched as the senior living facility filed for bankruptcy. We watched as the Town voted to increase the taxpayer burden to deflect the hard effects of what has amounted to almost disastrous overreaching in planning. We watched as the nearby Plum Village “affordable” housing development up the way was left to languish and become a ghost town of unoccupied buildings and more aquifer-spoiling tar.

And now, while we were living our lives, focused on new parenthood, another affordable housing project comes along, this one monstrous in size—almost twice the size of anything that’s been done before. Forty-six houses built, to justify the existence of maybe a dozen.

We live in a small community. We know everybody. And it’s really hard when friends start fighting and pointing fingers and accusing and pushing back and forth. It’s YOU…No, it’s YOU…. No, it’s YOU. It’s hard to sense so many feeling shoved out and victimized, and no one seeing eye to eye. It’s hard to feel that you were not consulted…that you were not brought into the conversation…never a mailing…and yet, to hear it claimed that “there is no neighborhood opposition.”

It’s hard to have people imply that you are being selfish, or worse, hypocritical, when you consider yourself a fair and honest person.

It hurts to hear people scoff because you raise the concern of property value. They don’t understand, or consider, that maintaining the value of your home means making sure that your investment pays off, that what you have sweated and toiled and sacrificed your life [in my partner's case, try twenty plus years] to keep remains an asset. It's the glimmer of light in your eye when you think that one day, at the end of all this toil, you will be able to pass what you have worked for on to your son.

I’ll tell you about our home value. It comes from the fact that, despite all the crazy development that has already besieged our neighborhood, we still have some vestige of open space left. In our backyard we are treated to birdsong, blue jays, cardinals, finches, doves, you name it, crows… can’t forget the crows…And the woodpeckers with their funny staccatos. We get bunnies hopping through, although, truth be told, we used to see many more, before so many more cars started joining our once quiet roadways. We still have a family of deer that wander through our lot. Our chances to glimpse them out the window with our two year old, or examine their fresh tracks in the dirt drive, have been the magical moments we live to experience again. Like the sight of the sun setting over the treetops on the southwest side of the house, while standing at the kitchen window, while setting the table for the evening meal. Or standing outside in the blackest of nights and drinking in the starry brilliance of the Milky Way, so close overhead you can almost taste it, as you trace Orien’s sword, or the shape of the Big Dipper, and think of the sweet pouring of endless sustenance.

That swath of land over there where some people are pushing to build a new village is the last patch of land that’s left for the animals to hide in. The deer venture through our yard because they know they can still feel safe, and scamper off, in a moment, among the pines. Once those woods are gone they'll stop coming here. The geese too will make their semi annual pilgrimage honking to and from the pond no longer over our house and that swath of once open space, but seeking out some other, calmer route, before eventually they, too, stop coming at all to the place once referred to, way back in some distant dream, as home.


This blog was originally published in March, on my blog

Your comments or questions about the Sachem's Path housing development project are welcomed.