Almost 200 years have passed since Hopkinton residents first poured on their prejudice against Prudence Crandall in her effort to help African American girls. Now the prejudice is against anything that makes an effort toward expanding our non-residential tax base.
And it's not just the latest outcries against solar projects, its everything that has tried and been thwarted by either NIMBY (Not In My Backyard) or our own sitting officials. When the timing is right around election season, development proposals have seated town councilors based only on their stance of opposition to the development proposal at hand (ie; Sharon Davis, Gary Williams, etc.).
I can remember my late father's attempt at potentially developing a seasonal dog-racing facility at Exit 1 when Exit 1 had absolutely nothing but a blank canvas of highway commercial- and industrial-zoned property. The council president at the time promised a townwide referendum, but it never happened.
I was a member of the subcommittee to help develop our very first Comprehensive Plan and helped develop the questionnaire for residents to chime in on what they envisioned for the growth of Hopkinton. One of those questions was a desire to see commercial growth at the two exits. Ironically someone rifled through the collection of these questionnaires at the Ashaway Post Office and discarded all those that desired such development into the trash container where they were found by somebody and reported.
Several decades later a retail development came knocking, but once again, along with a major outcry from the public, a moratorium on any development enacted by the town council and a letter from the sitting council president to the developer stating, basically, "We don't want you" sent that idea packing. I bet most people don't know that the zoning ordinance, the district use tables and the Comp Plan all supported large-scale retail development at Exit 1. Look it up.
But sabotage always wins in Hopkinton. I am told that sabotage by a town official also played a role in nixing the Loves Truck Stop. I think there is court action pending on that issue still. I remember when everyone was against cell towers but now everyone who reads this has one and needs one and gripes when you lose service. If it wasn't for the federal government stepping in and taking away some of local governments' authority I bet Hopkinton would not have any cell phone service.
Now comes solar fields, when society is all for green energy, but "Not In My Backyard" please — put it somewhere else. I think the Old Depot Road site as well as the Brushy Brook site were both good candidate sites for these projects. One, I'm told, had a 700-foot buffer from the nearest residence, which pretty much puts it out of sight. And these panels don't make noise or pollution nor do they increase traffic or make school children. The Brushy Brook site is also in an area where the only ones to see it were the few who live there, who, ironically, were all for it. I guess it was the deforestation that doomed them. Somehow I believe if some millionaire wanted to raise thoroughbreds on either of these sites, no one would say boo. How lovely, horses. Even if the same number of trees needed to come down to make the horses' pasture, that would be just fine because it's horses, not solar panels.
Just over the border along Interstate 95 in North Stonington, the Lewis Farm deforested several hundred acres and I don't recall a peep from anyone over that side of the Hopkinton border. Its farming, after all, and ironically for growing corn for, most likely, ethanol. How's that for full circle.
Prejudice, sabotage and the emotional NIMBYs will always rule in Hopkinton. Get ready for your tax increase next budget year.