Joe Urban | Sam Newberg, Urbanist


Dateline: 2:33 pm August 5, 2011 Filed under:

Story: a guy gets up in front of a crowded public meeting about a proposed project and says “I have two questions. Is this a done deal and will I get assesssed for it?” Upon hearing the answer to the first question is “yes” and the second is “no,” he says thank you and promptly walks out of the room. That is one of the easiest dealings with a NIMBY I’ve ever heard. I wish all public meetings would go this way.

Unfortunately, NIMBYs continue to be “mad as hell,” as Scott Doyon discussed in a recent post about NIMBYs at PlaceShakers . The post brought up some interesting points, but I must disagree with the conclusion that building trust will solve the NIMBY issue. I’m usually an urban optimist, but I remain pessimistic that NIMBYs will ever change their tune. No matter ho much you try, you will not satisfy a true NIMBY. There will always be something to not like. And the problem is a dedicated few can derail a $10 million investment in a city that could be quite attractive and a positive addition to a neighborhood.

So to Mr. Doyon’s point, I don’t think there will ever be trust to soothe NIMBYs’ concerns. For example, where were these people 10 years ago when the master plan for the area was created? It indicated four stories then, so why get mad now when four stories are proposed for an actual project? And exactly why is additional traffic so bad? Remember, Detroit solved their congestion problem, and look what it got them? The homeowner who has lived there for 40 years and doesn’t want a tall building across the street? What about me? I’m a homeowner that chose to live in my neighborhood exactly for the potential of increased density.

The process is not perfect, but even when there is good leadership and a good developer with a good project queued up, it doesn’t matter, there will be NIMBYs. And do they have and deserve a voice? Yes, but that is exactly why I get involved. I want to be the PEDIMBY (PlEase Develop In My Back Yard). I want to do exactly what NIMBYs oppose. I want to see new development in my neighborhood, particularly if it looks good and makes things more vibrant. I love Mr. Doyon’s idea that NIMBYs need to put up or shut up: establish trust and tell developers what you want to see. Keep it positive. It is just that NIMBYs will always have their place, and they won’t change their tune. So PEDIMBYs are vitally important to embrace change (it is, after all, inevitable – change will come, but make it positive) and work with developers to make good things happen.

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