Who Is The NIMBY?

Most serious planners, urbanists and academics agree that only those seeking to suppress debate use the juvenile school-yard taunt of “NIMBY”. As Jennifer Keesmat, Planning Director of the City of Toronto, recently said, she would never use the term, not only because it is a childish insult but especially, as she noted, so much of residents’ opposition to development is justified due to major planning errors in the past.

Moreover, it is a stupidly undefined term. For example, if I am opposed to a 20 storey building, but support a 10 storey structure, am I a NIMBY or do I simply oppose the larger option?

If, using another example, a famously low-rise and generally affordable community expresses itself opposed to an intrusive 12-storey condo tower but in favour of significant new amounts of four-storey affordable rental apartments, isn’t it the developer and their flunkies who are the actual NIMBYs (to use their oft-repeated taunt) or worse as they oppose the community-friendly option simply to make a bigger profit?

As a respected correspondent, unaffiliated with the local campaigns, wrote to me, the use of NIMBY “is divisive and ultimately destructive. Those who use it are counter-productive … It has little to do with the real issues at hand [and] those who use it tend to be delusional in their thinking. Simplistic solutions work for them.”

I suggest that we invoke a form of Godwin’s Law here. Godwin’s Law states that in any given internet discussion, someone will eventually bring up the name of Hitler and that will bring the discussion to a halt. I propose that in any discussion of development anyone who uses the term NIMBY be castigated and ostracised as having no further¬†useful argument to make.

Lets be done with jeers and taunts and get on with the business of building our city.

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