Two sets of values in conflict when NIMBYs oppose development

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By P. Michael Saint,
Chairman and CEO, The Saint Consulting Group

nimbys There are those who argue that NIMBYs, (those who oppose new development near their homes) are just plain selfish. They are placing their own happiness ahead of the greater good. For example, when nearby residents oppose wind farms that will generate clean electric power for the good of the entire region, state or country because they might be noisy or block their views.

But more often than not, NIMBY fights are really a battle between two sets of values, two sets of priorities, each equally good, but unable to co-exist in the same place.

Take for example, those protectors of the environment who would bar solar power in the California desert, because it might harm plant and animal life, or those who would stop wind power turbines in Wyoming because they might harm endangered bird species.

Or those who want to protect nature and scenic beauty by barring wind farms along the coast or those who would ban outdoor clothes lines in home yards because of the negative image they can have and thus erode property values, despite proponents’ claims that outside clothes lines reduce energy consumption by reducing use of electric and gas dryers.

Or those who agree nuclear power is superior to power plants that burn coal or oil because the nuke plants do not emit greenhouse gases and do not consume fossil fuels and lead to global warming. They want the power but they do not want spent fuel rod storage in their state – witness the fight over Yucca Mountain in Nevada.

So which is it? Are NIMBYs simply selfish people or are they campaigners for a conflicting set of values?
What do you think?

Mike Saint is chairman and founder of The Saint Consulting Group, email

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