EDITORIAL: NIMBY prevalence

If you haven’t been accused of being a NIMBY, just be patient. Chance are you will be, sooner or later.

If you haven’t run across the term, NIMBY stands for Not In My Backyard.

There are few developments that happen in Penticton without meeting opposition from Nimby’s. Their presence is entirely predictable; whether it be a waterslide, condo tower, high rise, low rise, parking lot, duplex or any other development, there are always those who say ‘This is a great idea, but this isn’t the right spot for it.’

It’s so prevalent that various organizations, including the Province of B.C. and the Federation of Canadian Municipalities have published guides to help local governments deal with it. The FCM guide even lists common concerns (and how to respond) that might seem eerily familiar to anyone who has attended a public hearing at Penticton city council: Our property values will go down; more density will cause too much traffic/parking problems; services and infrastructure won’t handle the density; it will spoil the character of our neighbourhood.

This isn’t to say that Nimby’s aren’t sincere in their opposition and belief that their lives will be negatively affected by whatever they are opposing, but when it comes to development, it’s up to city council to determine which are the valid arguments and which can be set aside. That’s not an easy thing to do, and at times they get it wrong, as with the Save Skaha Park movement, which they initially disregarded, but which has shown through time, dedication and the ever-increasing size of their organization that their concerns go far beyond simple Nimbyism.

More times than not, NIMBY is at the root of opposition to development, but not always. Council needs to develop a conscious, flexible framework to identify true Nimbyism from complaints worth taking seriously — in the heat of the moment, politicians don’t have a good track record of making such distinctions.