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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