NIMBY solutions – Part one

Four tools with a track record of success

Construction projects that offer community benefits are often met with opposition by those closest to the project. When someone agrees with a project in concept, but objects to it being located near them the objections are termed “Not in My Backyard” (NIMBY). NIMBY reactions occur frequently in response to wind energy facilities, removal of deteriorating dams to restore streams, road and transportation projects, and affordable housing developments. Part one outlines specific techniques to navigate conflict and achieve the outcomes your community needs.

Successful approaches for overcoming such reactions are summarized from “Understanding the NIMBY and LULU Phenomena: Reassessing our knowledge base and informing future Research” by Carissa Schively in the Journal of Planning Literature:

  1. Talk with each other – Instead of relying on formal public processes such as public hearings or meetings to work through objections, invite those who are opposed to discuss their concerns with you directly in informal conversation. Let them know when you understand (this doesn’t mean you agree) their perceptions of what the project could mean for them. Remain patient and concerned despite pressures of other timelines. 
  2. Plan how you will communicate about impacts – When you do communicate the details of the project, plan your messages carefully. Remember: first seek to understand, respect their concerns, and keep risk communication guidelines in mind:

    More acceptable when the risk is . . . 

    Less acceptable when the risk is . . .

    Familiar

    Unfamiliar

    Voluntary

    Involuntary

    Under own control

    Controlled by others

    Detectable

    Undetectable

    Perceived as fair

    Perceived as unfair

    Permits individual protective action

    Does not permit individual protective action

    Uninteresting and forgettable

    Dramatic and memorable

    Certain

    Uncertain

    When you focus on reducing the risk or impact instead of simply estimating it, you demonstrate that their concerns matter.

  3. Share the control – Provide an opportunity for those who oppose the development some control over the new facility and its potential impacts. Inviting those who are opposed to help monitor the impacts can be a useful way to alleviate concerns through observation and attention to the items that matter to residents.
  4. Compensation – In some cases, agreement can be gained by offering to offset losses should they occur after construction.  

If you want to learn more about conflict resolution, visit Michigan State University Extension’s Conflict Resolution Page where you can sign up for classes offered online or at a town near you. 

“Getting to yes” references the modern classic negotiation text by William Ury.     

Part two - concrete examples of how to tailor messages that calm opponents by applying several of the concepts to a Bus Rapid Transit case in Mid-Michigan.

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