Wednesday, October 8, 2008

The Enchanted NIMBY Forest I: Early Resistance to I-675

Continuing the I-675 story into the 1970s. For the early history click here.

NIMBY means Not in My Backyard, and it was a backyard forest that kicked off a decade of controversy around I-675, ultimately involving two US Presidents.

Driving westbound at I-675 approaching Wilmington Pike one notices the freeway bisecting a woodlot.

….which backs up onto a few subdivisions, the southernmost end of Kettering.

This “enchanted” forest didn’t want to be cut down, and apparently cast a spell over the residents of the adjacent Oak Creek subdivision, causing them to organize the Oak Creek Environmental Committee in opposition to the interstate alignment through the woods.

The leader was a Mr. Mione, who lived in this house (circled in the maps)

We know it’s his house because the newspaper occasionally published his street address during the decades’ worth of reporting on the controversy, which involved the Dayton Newspapers inc. editors and publishers..

Yet why didn’t these residents provide input when the final alignment adjustments were made in 1966 and 67?

Because this subdivision wasn’t built yet. Miones’ house was built in 1972, as were most of the others here (some in 1973). Did the developer or real estate agent tell him about an expressway routed behind the subdivision when they sold him the house?

In fact the subdivision was sited to make way for the future freeway right-of-way, as one can see from this1970s aerial, with Miones’ house circled. We know this because the plat is included in the appendix for the Environmental Impact Statement.

Noted on the map is Pondview Park. The goal of the Oak Creek group was to add the forest to this park…

…and one of their arguments against I-675 was that the freeway would contaminate runoff leading to this pond, killing off the fish.

They were recommending that the freeway be realigned south of the forest, perhaps along a route similar to this:

The Oak Creek Environmental Committee appears to have organized in 1973, at least as early as 1972. They were successful in getting the ear of the Kettering City Council, who passed a resolution or ordnance requesting that the remaining portions of I-675 be subject to the then-new requirement of an Environmental Impact Statement, or EIS.

Yet the EIS text makes no mention of the local activity, saying the EIS came about via agreement between the Federal Highway Administration and National Wildlife Federation.

Press reports say further construction was halted in October 1973 pending completion of the EIS.

The 1970’s energy crisis started the same month with the Arab oil embargo.

Opposition to I-675 in Context

The EIS was a requirement of the National Environmental Protection Act, or NEPA, signed into law in 1970. NEPA was part of a wider environmental movement emerging during the 1960’s from various sources and events, resulting in various Federal laws regarding model towns, endangered species protection and clean water protection, as well as advocacy groups like Friends of the Earth (which split off from the Sierra Club). The concept of environmental or ecological planning also was part of the movement.

The movement even impacted the states, leading to state laws on environmental protetion, conservation, and planning (like Oregon’s’ land use control laws)

The later 1960s and 1970s was also an era of the freeway revolts, arising at first from citizen opposition to urban expressways disrupting neighborhoods, but later being led, in some cases, by members of the environmental movement. One of these revolts, the Mount Hood Freeway controversy in Portland, Oregon, was to have an indirect impact on I-675.

One can see the Oak Creek Environmental Committee as part of the environmentally-driven part of the freeway revolts.

A timeline of the emergence of the environmental movement, with Dayton and I-675 activity included:

(this graph is an eye-chart, so click on it to enlarge)

The above chart notes some activity in the Dayton area. In the 1960s open space preservation was an issue, leading to the formation of Metroparks and the first reserve acquisitions. Ecological planning principles were adopted for Newfields, a federally funded new town being developed by the Huber interests, and some early mass transit concepts surfaced via a Federal busway demonstration proposal and a local light rail concept.

Some of the proposals (like light rail and the River Corridor) operated on a regional scale as shown on the following map. The light rail line might have been a starter line for a larger scheme, but this is unclear as the original proposal “DART, A New Way To Go” is lost.

Early design work for Newfields also indicated a light-rail line from the town center running down the median of a proposed expressway into Dayton, akin to the Chicago CTA mid-freeway lines.

During this period RTA was established, permitting a tax subsidy for mass transit (which could have included a DART light rail system).

Taken together the various Dayton region proposals indicate a different way for transportation and land development. A way not taken.

One should note that the first part of I-675 was under construction from I-70 to Fairfield road, let as two contracts. There was an unexplained (in the press) delay between the 1967 final alignment and the letting of the first contract.

I-675 was to end at Fairfield Road until the mid 1980s, and the story of that delay will be the subject of the nexpost.

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