Taming the wild NIMBY

Scott Anders

How does one tame the wild NIMBY? Well, that depends on the proposed project. If one proposes building a new airport, prison, or nuclear power plant, there is not much that one can do except brace for the onslaught and gather the favorable evidence for your project. Even with different projects planned, however, too often contractors and developers opt not to contact the NIMBY until absolutely made to do so by the approval process. Waiting until absolutely necessary often exacerbates the defensive reaction of the NIMBY.

There are methods for taming the NIMBY that can be cost effective, add to a development project and dampen or eliminate much of the opposition to your project. It seems counterintuitive to boldly approach the NIMBY, but consideration of certain factors demonstrates the wisdom of such a decision.  

First, is your project one that is routine or mundane? If developing a new neighborhood is your goal and it is near other neighborhoods, then approaching the potential neighbors may be beneficial. In exchange for working with the neighbors to mitigate certain impacts or present a buffer that exceeds the bare minimum required by code, the developer may be pleasantly surprised to find less resistance than anticipated. Working with the neighbors may ultimately save you legal fees and time in navigating the approval process.  

Second, can your project offer additions to the existing neighborhoods that residents will see as positive benefits? Do you plan to add parks or common areas that the existing neighbors can use? Will there be improved access to thoroughfares or services?  

If the project is commercial in nature, then you might want to focus on mitigation measures that reduce noise, light and litter.

Almost all projects will have detractors who will never quit regardless of whether their basis for the resistance is rational or not. Significantly reducing the number of detractors is really the goal.  

In one such effort to tame the wild NIMBY, a developer approached the neighborhood associations before it made its development application to the government. The first meeting brought a large representation from the neighborhoods concerned over any development at all. Once the developer explained that it was trying to be a good neighbor but had a right to develop the property and that it came trying to make a good project for all parties, most of the neighbors in attendance engaged in helpful discussion.

The developer was able to point out some things that might work and the reasons that other things would not work. By the time the development came up for a hearing, only three neighbors spoke against the project, while other neighbors testified that the developer had worked with them to develop a good project.
No one should think that all projects can have that result, but the approach is worth considering in dealing with neighbors who do not want anything next door. When the opportunity presents itself and with the right kind of project, the path to success might just lead through the neighbors first.

Scott A. Anders is an attorney and shareholder in Jordan Ramis PC. He is an experienced former civil prosecutor and former District Court Judge in Clark County. Anders focuses his practice on land use, real estate and business matters. He can be reached at 360.567.3904 or scott.anders@jordanramis.com

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