The ghettos of Lincoln

Lincoln is one of the richest towns in Massachusetts but it has a ghetto too.

As in some other states, towns here are legally required to permit affordable housing. Most residents don’t want anybody moving in, and especially those people. What to do?

A compromise was reached. The dirty masses would be allowed to live at the edge of town but they would not be allowed to drive into town. A prohibition on turning right out of their driveway would leave them connected only to the highway. In Newton they called it a “gated community” ordinance. It protected an enclave of richer folks from poorer folks on the main street. In Lincoln it’s the reverse, a ghetto which the poor aren’t allowed to leave.

It reminds me of the approach some towns take to strip clubs. The courts say exotic dancing is protected free speech. Zoning rules say you can only do it in an industrial park at the edge of town at least 1,000 feet from a residence. It’s a second class right like using the public works.

In a rich town traffic regulation is all about greasing squeaky wheels. One resident complains about immigrants and gets a no right turn sign. Another complains about commuters and gets a nuisance stop sign. Speed bump. One way. Do not enter. Speed trap.

There was a speed trap down the street from me last week. Did the officer see the shocked look on my face as I drove past? There’s an accident on that section of road about once a decade. It’s not safe because of enforcement, which is rare. The road works fine if you leave it alone.

I didn’t fire off an ALL CAPS email when a fire truck drove the length of the road in reverse going beep beep beep the whole way, early on a Saturday morning. I don’t call the cops on the kid who likes to ride his bike along the centerline. Obviously somebody down the street is better connected and less tolerant than me.

Buried in all the roadside spam you can find clues about which residents are too selfish to be allowed to live in our society. No right turn is the most common around here. There can be good reasons to ban left turns. A no right turn sign, unless it’s onto a one way street, usually means residents want a private street at public expense. Keep an eye out as you drive around Massachusetts. Lots of towns do it. Cambridge has a protected neighborhood near Alewife. Belmont is full of no right turn restrictions. Somerville openly posts streets for residents only. Farther west, Brookfield posted a fake bridge closed sign.

I know a developer in Connecticut who spent decades fighting to build an affordable housing project in a town that didn’t want anyobdy moving in. Residents paid for thousands of hours of legal fees to keep their town pure. But they couldn’t pull any of this “in our town, but not of our town” nonsense like Lincoln. The project fronted on a state road. The state DOT was in charge of traffic management. Sight lines OK? Road has enough capacity? Here’s your curb cut permit.

It’s a much better system to have both traffic regulation and enforcement under control of the county or state. First, regulators will be responsive to a larger group of people and will consider regional traffic flow. Second, State Police don’t need to put up with residents telling them the law is only for other people.

The opinions expressed in this post belong to the author and do not necessarily represent those of the National Motorists Association or the NMA Foundation. This content is for informational purposes and is not intended as legal advice. No representations are made regarding the accuracy of this post or the included links.

Not an NMA Member yet?

Join today and get these great benefits!

Leave a Comment

One Response to “The ghettos of Lincoln”

  1. James C. Walker says:

    Sounds like the group of “ghetto” residents should be able to bring a suit for discrimination.