Editorial: Let's not over-react

Now, it appears, even plans to buy land for open space can draw organized opposition — people protecting their neighborhood and privacy, guarding against imagined assaults on their property values.

A petition from residents of Craigmoor Road was delivered to the Board of Selectmen, opposing the Conservation Commission’s plan to buy an acre of open space, which could then provide access to some other open space in the area. The Conservation Commission ended up withdrawing its plan from a public hearing, and is backing away from the purchase.

The petition was signed by 30 residents of Craigmoor Road, a short T-shaped subdivision street. Of particular concern to the neighbors was the idea that the proposed one-acre purchase would be an “access point” for other open space in the area.

People should be able to speak out freely on whatever concerns them. And the Craigmoor Road neighbors were exercising their democratic right to have their voices heard on something in their neighborhood that they found troubling. The petition may have overstated their case that the one-acre open space purchase poses a threat to the area, but it made clear that the neighborhood was united in opposition to the plan. And town officials heard the message. The petition ended up prompting a change in the town’s plans. That’s the system working as it was designed to work.

But, it’s hard not to view the petitioners’ reaction as overwrought.

Save the neighborhood from open space? Really?

What a neighborhood scourge! The Conservation Commission had planned a trail and footbridges. People might end up parking cars on the neighborhood cul-de-sac and walking in the woods.

The instinct of homeowners to guard their neighborhoods against anything they view as threat or an intrusion is well established, and understandable. People build their lives in the neighborhoods — it’s where they live and eat and sleep. The spend a lot of money buying their homes.

But that instinct is also very often an over-reaction. People who live in different parts of the community host different neighborhood amenities that they share with others who live nearby. Some people live near stores and shopping centers. Others have a residential community with a school in it, and all that means — athletic fields, playgrounds, buses coming and going. Some people live on overburdened highways. Others live on busy connector roads. People in northern Ridgefield have long put up with the planes from Danbury Airport. Folks in the village have sidewalks — and dog walkers.

Everyone’s part the community, and people in various areas share different burdens and benefits.

And, yes, as time goes on and the area gets more crowded, there does tend to more of everything — the annoying as well as the good. That’s among the reasons that many people value having open space in town, and a Conservation Commission that is a good steward of the woodlands, wetlands and trails given to its care.

Towns grow. Neighborhoods slowly change. Life goes on.

Relax, folks.