NIMBYS not all wrong, but system now favors opponents of development

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By Patrick Fox, President, The Saint Consulting Group

This story from The Star Phoenix in Canada attacks the idea that all NIMBY opposition is just emotional nonsense and makes the point that the facts sometimes validate the concerns of the angry neighbors.
Are there good reasons not to want to live next to a power plant, an oil refinery, a quarry, a factory or a major retail outlet? Sure, but we still need them to maintain our way of life.
The problem is that the swinging pendulum has swung too far in favor of the opponents and the zeitgeist now favors opposition over progress.  We still require energy, shelter and jobs.  We still require a vibrant tax base to maintain basic services.
Virtually every project is opposed now regardless of community need or level of local impacts.  Good projects die every day because we now have a system in the US and UK where opponents show up at hearings and make their voices heard while supporters stay home.
98% of local residents may favor a proposed development because they understand that their community needs the jobs, tax dollars or other benefits a project may bring, but they are not writing letters to their local officials, showing up at hearings or signing petitions- the opponents are.   When the local hearing is held, officials hear and see only opposition and they are often passionate, emotional and scared. They will remember how those officials voted on this project next election day.
The problem is not that all NIMBYs are wrong. The problem is that the system now favors opponents to development and we cannot expect to maintain or ever grow our economy while we shackle economic investment and development.

Patrick Fox is president of The Saint Consulting Group and co-author with Robert Flavell and P Michael Saint of Nimby Wars: The Politics of Land Use, email

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