MHA Receives Cease and Desist

The Stunning Truth about No On Yale

Here’s what I know:

That I used to believe if you worked hard and paid your taxes, you could one day own a home and raise a family—in a neighborhood of some kind or another—and live your life in peace.

That you could put down roots and build a life and a community with the simple assumption that your neighborhood would be a refuge where people cared about each other, looked after each other, walked dogs together, had holiday parties and block parties; where kids could go in and out of each other’s houses, play in the park and ride their bikes up and down the street.

That, even with those ideals and intentions, life rarely goes as planned. Real struggles often seep—and sometimes crash—into your life. You can lose your job, face grave illness, get in an accident, and so forth. Life’s interruptions can come in the form of drug addiction, infidelity, financial peril, divorce, alcoholism and death.

That you can learn and grow and recover and rebuild your life, despite setbacks and challenges. That you can become more whole, and ever so much more grateful for a second (or third) chance.

That, like for so many people, my life has been reassembled from discarded pieces of other families and lessons learned the hard way.

That my husband and I chose to take our second chance on a new life in a community that many told us was a risk, a bad investment. But after 10 years, we began to feel like we had finally found “home” here in Holyoke.

We never in a million years imagined that a large commercial business—a 16-bed medical treatment facility—could suddenly move in directly next door and threaten all of that. An apparently “non-profit” business, masquerading as a social service agency, hiding behind a for-profit subsidiary company, and hopping on the money train to capitalize on the country’s latest hot commodity—the addicted!

How is that OK? How does a neighborhood comprised of single-family homes occupied by hard-working, middle-class, taxpaying people make sense for a medical business like that? How do I turn out to be one of the bad guys in this scenario because I’m not eagerly handing over my neighborhood to this company? How do they get to helicopter down here and have the nerve to say to us “You’ve all been so fortunate in your lives, don’t you think it’s time you share?” How dare they? 

They don’t know us. They don’t know how hard we’ve worked and continue to work to be able to live here and put food on the table. They don’t know what we’ve gone through in our lives, what we’re going through. They don’t know how many of us have had horrific first-hand experiences with addiction, with mental illness, with gender issues. They don’t know, and they obviously don’t care.

Of course, why would they want to? All that would do is make it a lot harder for them to paint us as those rich NIMBYs up in the Highlands who don’t give a damn about recovery or helping the mentally ill or supporting the LGBTQ community. 

It would make it a lot harder for them to steamroll over us and our concerns about fire, emergency vehicle access, increased traffic, delivery and visitor parking, potentially bio-hazardous trash, peace and quiet, the security of our homes, the safety of our children. 

It might even make it a lot harder for them to rake in the $1.4 million per year—with not a penny of property tax going to Holyoke—that the facility is projected to generate with a clear conscience.

Why is the well-being of this neighborhood and the people who live in it being sacrificed so that a big, commercial, non-taxpaying medical rehab facility can move in? Especially when there are so many better places it could go? Big Rehab takes a fancy to our R-1 zoned single-family neighborhood and we’re supposed to just charitably hand it over? 

A medical facility being allowed in an R-1 neighborhood is in blatant violation of Holyoke’s own zoning ordinances and yet the mayor and the city government say they can do nothing to stop it—is this the new paradigm? Are one person’s needs and wants—drug addicted, mentally ill or otherwise—more important than someone else’s? 

Why is this multimillion-dollar, non-profit Goliath working so hard to manipulate public opinion against us? Why are they trying to make us look like anything other than who we are—people who work hard, pay off our mortgages, pay our taxes, clean up our trash, mow our lawns, take care of our families, try to raise this city up, and believe our homes and our neighborhood should be our sanctuaries?

As the old saying goes, just follow the money.

Here’s what I know:

That solid, taxpaying neighborhoods like ours are the backbone of Holyoke. If they are allowed to decline due to the influx of more and more non-profit entities that do not pay property taxes, the whole city will suffer as a result. Your neighborhood could be next.

That it’s not too late to stop this disastrous trend. You can help fight the ill-advised 11 Yale Street project by reaching out to Mayor Morse, our city councilors, our state representative and our Massachusetts state senator and letting them know how you feel, or visiting citizensforholyoke.org for more information.

And that David defeated Goliath in the end.

Deb Peavey, 9 Yale Street, Holyoke