At night, when the windows are open and the breeze blows in, we can hear the clank and calamity of heavy machinery paving a road near our house.

Nobody asked us if they could widen the Glenn McConnell Parkway from four lanes to six. One day the orange cones just appeared, the road graders showed up and the noisy process began.

Twenty years ago, when our house was built, there was no road there at all. Just marsh, wading birds and the sounds of serenity.

Twenty years from now, that road will be a major artery that stretches all the way to Summerville and nobody will remember when it wasn't there.

That's the way it is with progress. Everybody's in favor of it, until it comes through their backyard.

Horse diapers

I remember when the Omni Hotel was being built and critics thought it would ruin the Holy City. Instead, it sparked the complete rejuvenation of downtown Charleston.

Believe it or not, it took the devastation of Hurricane Hugo to convince some folks that we needed the Isle of Palms connector as an escape route from the barrier islands. And I covered a meeting in Washington in the 1980s when then-U.S. Sen. Strom Thurmond commanded highway officials to finally get off their duff and fund the James Island connector, a project that had lingered on the drawing board for decades.

A lot of locals thought the Mark Clark Expressway around the metro area signaled the end of the world as we know it. And Spoleto Festival USA, our cultural centerpiece, almost didn't happen because of local dissent.

Then there was the South Carolina Aquarium, which was a political hot potato for years. And don't forget Waterfront Park, another project that had people up in arms.

Oh, and who can forget putting diapers on the carriage horses? That made national news.

Many opinions

These days, we're grappling with where to put the cruise ship terminal, how to control the tourist industry, downtown flooding, bike lanes, rail routes, parking issues, whether or not to finish Interstate 526 and how to preserve the rural flavor of the sea islands.

Opinions, of course, are plentiful as everyone tries to be heard in the continuing, and often contentious, public dialogue.

Surely the debate was just as intense when somebody decided to expand the city outside its original, protective walls. When they filled the marshes to increase the size of the peninsula.

No doubt someone cried foul when their land was taken to make way for new bridges to be built, or when the interstate came through, the Crosstown cut through downtown neighborhoods, housing developments exploded in the suburbs or architectural restrictions were imposed on historical homes.

When it comes to change and progress, we're hardly immune to controversy. But in the end, it's what eventually molds us into a community.

Reach Ken Burger at 937-5598 or on Twitter at @Ken_Burger.