Thursday, August 18, 2011

Sioux County Board of Supervisors: Letter regarding NIOSC Sandy Hollow proposal

The following is from a letter I wrote concerning the NIOSC application regarding Sandy Hollow, submitted to the Sioux County Board of Supervisors: Al Bloemendaal, John Degan, Arlyn Kleinwolterink, Mark Sybesma, and Denny Wright. If you would like to express your opinions or information on this matter, email them at board@siouxcounty.org. Make sure to state that your letter is for the record.

The data alone is powerful enough to carry this case, but this isn’t just about numbers – shots per day, decibels, names signed for or against, income gained or lost, parts per million lead contamination, potential cost for taxpayers – this is about humans. If a shooting range is built, quality of life would be significantly reduced for neighbors as long as they continue to live near Sandy Hollow.

I lived the first 22 years of my life across the street from Sandy Hollow. I can watch myself grow up in the memories I made at Sandy Hollow: getting my kite stuck in trees, field trips, paddling inflatable boats across the ponds, the excitement of a new bike trail, turtles, church picnics, roller skating down the driveway, ice skating on a frozen flooded fairway, selling firewood, running in the sprinklers on the golf course, camping with friends, sand volleyball, swimming in the summer, tobogganing behind the truck in the winter, running at night and seeing fireflies over the corn, learning to fly fish from my fiancé, taking wedding pictures. Sandy Hollow is a valuable park where the community enjoys a variety of activities. I live in Omaha now, and we are home visiting my parents often at the house I grew up in.

In the past several months I have experienced a spectrum of emotions regarding the push to make Sandy Hollow a shooting range: Nostalgia that a place for families may become instead a place for guns. Confusion that planners unapologetically kept plans from the public to conveniently avoid opposition. Conviction as the research I read concerning gun range development, safety regulations, noise pollution and sound barriers, lead poisoning, and other health risks all strengthened my belief that this plan is unsafe, disrespectful, and poorly thought out. Disappointment that the property and zoning committee reversed their ruling based on political pressure from NIOSC instead of a thorough consideration of facts. Disbelief that leaders continue to promote a project that has been met with so much resistance. Anger at the shallowness of a group that seems content to – even intent on – sacrificing the well-being of an entire existing neighborhood for their preferred leisure activity, which NISOC supporters have referred to as “the greater good.”

The problem is not the idea of building a shooting range; the problem is that the proposed shooting range would be located at Sandy Hollow. I have not heard or read any arguments why Sandy Hollow is an appropriate site for gun range, only that a gun range itself would be cool and Sandy Hollow would be convenient.

Several obstacles prevent Sandy Hollow from being an acceptable gun range site. A gun range here would be too close to residences and businesses, too close to ground water and wells, and too close to the existing entertainment options currently enjoyed at Sandy Hollow. This makes the plan not only inconsiderate, but unsafe, unsustainable, and unacceptable. Future plans to expand with an ATV course are equally disturbing. Choosing to build an entertainment option for a special interest group at Sandy Hollow would come at the cost of undue stress and mental, physical, and financial toll for the existing neighborhood. Noise levels would disturb both animals and people, interrupting every part of life indoors and outdoors, including leisure, sleep, and business. Establishing a gun range would also negate the current role that Sandy Hollow holds in the community as a place for people of all ages to enjoy a variety of outdoor activities. This is not the greater good.

I think we all can agree that respecting others as we respect ourselves is central to living with integrity. You might enjoy visiting the proposed range to shoot, but would you like to never be able to leave? Would you want it built in your front yard? Would you be willing to lose your own financial investments for it? Would you like your children to drink the water downstream from thousands of pounds of lead sitting on a flood plain? Would you like to wake, work, eat, relax, and sleep to the noise of thousands of gunshots daily?

City officials have told the press and told my family directly that their public commitment to protecting rights, preserving community, and promoting wellness extends only as far as the city limits. You are a rural neighborhood. You are only 70 people. You do not belong to us; you are nobody's responsibility. We will make decisions that affect you, decisions that harm you, but it is not our job to make decisions to protect you. This not only shatters my concept of what leadership is meant to provide, it also makes me afraid.

I fear that the brainstorm of a well-meaning group of gun enthusiasts and a bandwagon group of city leaders eager for “progress” at any cost will rob the Sandy Hollow neighborhood of their peace, their reputation in the community, their mental and physical health, their ability to enjoy their own personal property, their financial stability, their property value, and ultimately even their plans for the future. I believe a shooting range can be built somewhere else where it will not destroy an existing community.

I do not have the money to seek legal action against NIOSC. I do not have the political clout to sway a committee. I do not have the time to continue researching and petitioning and losing sleep and writing letters. I was taught that a good leader is someone who balances compassion with wisdom, and speaks up for those who have been ignored. I implore you to utilize both your compassion and your wisdom in your consideration of this proposal. I ask you to step up and lead where the leaders before you have failed. Find a way to achieve progress safely and with integrity. An ugly rift grows in the community over an issue that could still be resolved in a way where both sides win. Build the gun range; Build it somewhere else.

1 comment:

  1. Excellent letter, very well thought-out. Your list of memories made me cry...I blame the pregnant hormones.

    All the for-the-record letters are published at siouxcounty.org

    http://www.siouxcounty.org/pdf/sandyhollow/letterssandyhollowpublichearing.pdf

    There is a lot of good information and perspectives in them.

    ReplyDelete

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