Hemig: Not in my backyard | TheUnion.com

Hemig: Not in my backyard

Jim Hemig Publisher The Union
John Hart/jhart@theunion.com | The Union

As I stood in the middle of a 1-acre lot and looked around at all the trees providing privacy between the neighbors, I thought to myself, I could sure grow a lot of pot here.

Or I could hold many great outdoor weddings or events. Or maybe even build and sell a bunch of furniture.

Being new in town and looking for the right house for my wife and myself has been a bit of a challenge. We want to be close to town, but we also want to have a little space. And, of course, the price has to be right.

My wife spent the last several months looking and looking. We couldn’t find the right house at the right price. Sometimes my wife found a house to her liking, but before I could go check it out, it would be sold. The good news is the real estate market seems to be picking up a little bit of steam.

As I stood in the middle of a one-acre lot and looked around at all the trees providing privacy between the neighbors, I thought to myself, I could sure grow a lot of pot here. Or I could hold many great outdoor weddings or events.

The publisher of a newspaper works a lot of hours and attends many events in town, so having something close was preferable. But after months with no luck, we thought we would need to extend our search to some of the adjacent areas outside of town. That’s when Emil Baldoni from Weiss Brothers called me and said he knew of a house that he thought would be perfect. He offered to drive me over for a look.

He was right — close to town, yet with an acre lot. The house does need some work, but my wife and I saw the potential and put an offer on it.

My wife likes the floor plan, but for me the best part of this house is that it’s on full acre at the end of a cul-de-sac in what appears to be a very quiet, easy-going neighborhood.

Few cars drive up and down the cul-de-sac. The neighborhood seems to consist of mature couples with little outside activity going on and a couple RVs parked alongside the houses.

As I stood on the property, I thought about all the community discussion this year around the value of property rights — whether someone should be able to have an outdoor wedding, grow medicinal marijuana or even make furniture for veterans. While I do believe we should be able to do what we want on our own property, I began to wonder what affect my actions might have on my new neighbors.

This neighborhood is so quiet and peaceful. I went over to this house almost a dozen times before we put an offer on it, and each time it’s been so quiet and peaceful that I had to wonder what impact I would have on this little neighborhood if I were to seek a permit to hold outdoor events or received approval to grow medicinal marijuana.

I’m not the only one asking these questions. As the publisher of the newspaper I receive a lot of phone calls and emails. Many people in our community have expressed concern about changes in their own neighborhoods. Most will not go on the record for fear of retaliation from their neighbors. But they tell me their neighborhoods have changed. They can’t open their windows because of the smell of marijuana coming in. They hear guard dogs barking from their neighbor’s yard, and undesirable people wander by at all hours.

Others have told me their driveways and streets are jammed with cars for some of these outdoor events, and the music can be rather loud late into the evening.

Even the Lake of the Pines veteran who was making and selling furniture in his yard brought out complaints because he was doing business in his driveway on weekends. And this was after he said his neighbors were fine with his activities.

The consistent message I hear through all of these emails and calls is that the people doing these activities feel it’s their right. Or they think their neighbors accept the activities because no one is willing to tell them no or argue the point. Instead their neighbors complain to the county or law enforcement to do something about it.

It makes me feel like the neighbors of these people are placed in a difficult situation. They feel like they have no control over the happenings in their own neighborhood. With no power to change things, the only solution is to seek law enforcement or county government help to regulate the situation. I’m sure most people want to be good neighbors and get along. But based on what I’ve heard, I believe our county supervisors received complaints of this nature which prompted both the outdoor event and medicinal marijuana ordinances.

While I have no issue with either medicinal marijuana or companies trying to make a living with outdoor events, such as weddings, I do feel for the neighbors who have contacted me and said they feel like they have no power in the situation.

So while I look at this acre yard and think of the potential, I can’t help but think of the neighbors.

So, I vow not to do anything that would disrupt this peaceful neighborhood. I believe it is my responsibility to maintain what the others on this quiet cul-de-sac have come to expect. I will be a good neighbor.

If everyone would just be a good neighbor, too, we would probably not have the issues we have now. I know it’s not quite that simple. But I will do my part. Will you?

To contact Publisher Jim Hemig, email jhemig@theunion.com or call 530-477-4299.

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