Opposition to Milford Domestic Violence Shelter: NIMBYism or Legit?
What I saw at last night's Board of Aldermen meeting was a group of residents trying to oppose a domestic violence shelter without opposing domestic violence victims.
That is, they stuck to the line that they're opposed to the shelter because it is, in their opinion, in violation of the zoning in their neighborhood. It's an inappropriate use, they say.
Here's a video of a woman testifying to that point, complete with a silent show of solidarity from some 30 or so people at the end:
(sorry for the poor quality - you might have to turn your volume waaaay up)
Thing is, in talking with some neighbors, they've told me that they're opposed to the shelter for other reasons - that it would be dangerous for the neighborhood, that it would take a building off the tax rolls, and that it would lower property values.
The property values/dangerous argument seems less palpable to me, since it essentially maligns battered women and children as undesirable, flea-bitten, or otherwise untoward; that their presence would bog down the neighborhood. Who wants to go out in public and say that?
On the other hand, the zoning violation argument seems more reasonable, especially for public consumption. But would the neighbors all accept the shelter if zoning was in order?
This morning I spoke to an attorney (Charles Willinger) representing a few neighbors in a zoning appeal of the shelter. Here's what he told me when I asked if the neighbors would accept the shelter IF all the zoning was in order:
"Let them apply through the right channels," he said. "When and if they do apply, we will oppose it."
Also, there appears to be a movement to out the address of the shelter. The thinking is that if the address is outed, it would be too dangerous to have the shelter (because if abusers know about it, they'll go there) at all. One neighbor called the Register to inquire about taking out an advertisement bearing the address (this after I wrote a story about it specifically leaving out the address); others have publicly stated the address, which may cause it to appear on public records, free for anybody to see.
What do you think? Is this a sincere effort by neighbors to ensure that zoning rules get followed - or is it just Not-In-My-Backyard-style fear of outsiders? Can anyone provide evidence that domestic violence shelters are detrimental? Should they be isolated? And would isolating shelters outside of residential zones end up harming the women and children who stay there?