The sin of being inconvenienced
At the New Garden Township board of supervisors meeting on April 21, during a discussion about sound ordinances in the township, a resident of the Harrogate Estates in Landenberg stood up in the second row and proceeded to spend the next few minutes complaining to the supervisors about how he was inconvenienced this past Easter Sunday morning.
At dawn, the sound he heard, coming from the Easter Sunrise mass at the nearby St. Anthony's in the Hills, was that of a recording of religious music. The event, according to a representative from St. Anthony's who had attended the meeting, had drawn about 450 people, and is held once a year for about one hour.
The Harrogate man told the supervisors that although he believes in the freedom of St. Anthony's to have these services, he does not believe the noise should be “inflicting” on surrounding residents. He is being inconvenienced, he told the supervisors.
In nearby Avondale, those who live in the sprawling comfort of very large homes have complained about the odor of mushroom composting for years. They are being inconvenienced, they tell their supervisors.
In Kennett Township, a small group of neighbors have conspired to, in effect, shut down the business of their neighbor, who runs a small motorcycle touring company out of his home, largely because they do not like the noise of motorcycles. They are being inconvenienced, they tell supervisors.
Recently, many Kennett Township residents have force the hand of their supervisors to develop a Use of Firearms ordinance in the township that regulates firearms used for target practice. They are being inconvenienced, they tell their supervisors.
As elected officials and township solicitors scramble around to carve out rules, regulations and working documents that aim to create peaceful compromises, one questions whether these ordinances are acts that are drafted from common reasoning, or whether they are the legal residue of what happens when compromise becomes the act of surrendering to our collective selfishness -- our NIMBY (Not in My Backyard) sense of entitlement.
To their credit, our local legislators are listening to all sides of the issues, and their work in developing these ordinances is vital to maintain some sense of order in the townships they help to govern. But where do the lines of demarcation begin and end? What freedoms do some need to give up – or at least, greatly compromise – in order to feed the well of our need for convenience? And just how far do we go to keep every individual in southern Chester County happy, all the time, free from the sound of amplified religious music, and the stench of mushroom composting that seeps through our three-season porches, and the gunfire sound of target practice, and the occasional buzz of a motorcycle touring group.
Where once we existed as part of a collective whole, we now live in a warped sense of self ownership, where any intrusion is considered a violation of the laws that govern us. We have become a county of wussies who will stop at nothing to force the world that surrounds us to adapt to our rules, our lifestyles, and we tattle at the first signs of interference.
In the end, our township supervisors become babysitters, working in compliance with the growing influence of the Me First Nation.
We dread the day when this newspaper has to write about a local Little League or a youth soccer club having to relocate their games because the sound of young people yelling and cheering is inconveniencing others. They will demand that their township do something about it.