NIMBY hits a new low

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John O'Connor
John O'Connor

I first heard about the sisters of Fraternite Notre Dame last winter, when two boilers broke down at a church they were running on Chicago's West Side.

It got so cold, the sanctuary dipped to 34 degrees and the holy water froze. Despite this daunting challenge, they continued to operate a daily soup kitchen and food pantry. 

Fortunately, as word of their hardship spread, many Chicagoans chipped in and the heating problem was resolved.

But nearby McHenry County ain't Chicago. And there, the view toward the nuns and what they do appears to be somewhat different. 

But first, some background: In 2005, the religious order paid $2.5 million for 65 acres of land there. They have since acquired 30 more acres. It was a savvy move. 

Lately, the nuns have been making plans to build a nursing home and boarding school on the property. But judging by the Not-In-My-Back-Yard response their effort just received, you'd have thought they had proposed a sanctuary for howler monkeys.

Recently the McHenry County Board soundly rejected the sisters' plan. They said the proposed development didn't fit the, ahem, character of the neighborhood. 

The vote could hardly have been more stinging. It went 21-2 against, and not a single board member spoke in favor of the service expansion. Audience applause erupted once the measure failed.

Fraternite Attorney Tom Zanck said the sisters will continue to explore their options. Let's hope the locals and the board will reconsider and perhaps become a bit more introspective. If not for the nuns' sake, then perhaps for their own.

This is an area full of God-fearing people. Most if not all are quite familiar with the Judgment Day concept.

And there may come a time when they may have to explain their views to a higher authority than the county board. If/when that time arrives, appealing to land-use plans and development ordinances might not sound so compelling.

Actually, it doesn't really sound like much of an argument right now.