Wal-Mart effect – public can fight city hall and oppose development

The Saint ReportNIMBY, Politicians and Planning, Property Development, Retail, Saint Consulting Links, saintblog, Wal-Mart and Big BoxLeave a Comment

wal-mart_effectBy Patrick Fox
President, The Saint Consulting Group

 Opposition to development is growing and has been for years.  Everyone involved in getting approvals to build anything in the United States, Canada or the United Kingdom has experienced it.  Developers who saw all of their projects approved ten years ago see half or fewer built today. 

The Saint Index, the international survey that quantifies opposition to development, shows massive levels of opposition to any new development in all three countries.  85% of UK residents oppose any new development in their community with 75% in Canada and 74% in the United States- daunting for anyone considering real estate projects in these countries.

NIMBYism is not new.  Fear of change has been around forever but people used to think they could not fight progress.  They use to say “You can’t fight city hall.”  All that changed.  People today know they can fight and win because they have seen it happen time and time again over the past 20 years.  We call it Wal-Mart Effect. 

The media has chronicled efforts by residents to stop Wal-Mart from building stores and distribution centers in news stories, books, magazines and documentaries.  The idea that citizens can organize and put pressure on local political officials to stop development projects is now part of the social consciousness.  Nearly everyone thinks they can fight city hall and stop development dead in its tracks.

This is a game changer for developers and many still don’t get it.  Back room deals and lunch with the mayor won’t get it done anymore.  It’s all about the politics.  The neighbors understand that and are increasingly sophisticated in how they use grassroots organizing techniques to stop developers cold. 

Patrick Fox is president of The Saint Consulting Group, email fox@tscg. biz,  phone 781 749-7290  ext. 7132   

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