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Big Brother is coming to East Longmeadow?

Date: 1/16/2012

January 16, 2012

The Reminder
reported last week that the EL Planning Board has prohibited Arbors Kids DayCare from using a short-cut Arbors has arranged with neighboring New England Lumber to bring their kids over to the rail trail. The Planning Board has complained that the site plan neglected to list a new gate the daycare center added (good grief!) and expressed their concern for the safety of the children. The arrangement is now dead, and the kids don’t walk the rail trail anymore.

Is it just me, or does this creeping “big-brotherism” bother you, too? According to the article, the daycare center manager had arranged with both the licensee of the daycare and the land owner for permission, had created a written plan, and even had the approval of their insurance carrier! Free, responsible adults doing what free responsible adults do — or used to be able to do. The article goes on to quote the landowner that the lumber-yard is “a pretty inactive storage yard,” yet the Planning Board sees “danger, trucks, forklifts, falling 12-foot pallet stacks” and other dire dangers that can only be resolved with a good dose of government intervention, control and approval. There’s no claim that any actual harm or injury has happened, but that it might possibly. Actually, it seems far more likely that the kids could be run down by a bicyclist on the trail than by a truck in the lumberyard.

It used to be that we only worried about the federal government’s increasing control over local matters, and the state’s increasing rules over our schools and public works, but now the liberal disease is right here, at the local town level. With every good intention, local town officials now are deciding for us what’s good for us, what’s safe for us, what’s appropriate for us to be allowed to do. As they pass more rules and regulations, it’s always for our own good. Always because something happened once somewhere, or maybe never happened, but might. And always “for the children.” Less and less room for common sense.

When site plans and operating plans become too detailed, they cause “technical” violations, such as a new gate. But not every minor modification should require a full-blown site plan revision and formal meeting. In the same way, not all “violations” need to be acted on by the board, just as the police officer has discretion over whether to ticket you when you are stopped. In law, the term is “de minimis” and means just what it looks like — minimal and not worth pursuing. This issue seems to belong between the two parties involved. There’s no reason to believe that Planning Board intervention, or the 70-foot wide delineated path, would add any measurable amount of value or safety. In fact, it would almost surely result in the lumber yard saying “fuggetaboutit.”

As we accept more and more government control at all levels, we give up the ability to walk our own path, to be responsible for our own decisions and actions, to use our property freely. I absolutely believe that the Planning Board means well, and much of the town citizenry supports more rules and regulations, but the result of this increasing control is that we give up freedom and initiative and independence, a little bit at a time, until it’s gone.

Pat Henry

East Longmeadow.

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