You have heard the rumors and now a county zoning sign goes up on the vacant property behind your house. What is going on here?
Neighbors start to talk and you check at the planning department at the county offices. It is a shopping center, you tells your neighbors. As you and a few of your neighbors pass out flyers, you discover that only one person in your 49-home subdivision does not care about the proposed development. Some widen their complaint to many things that have already happened near them and you have to keep them on topic.
Not in My Back Yard (NIMBY) is a term used to criticize people who oppose commercial or industrial development in their communities. Invariably derogatory, it casts citizens as selfish individualists who care only for themselves, hypocrites who want the benefits of modernity without paying its costs.
Communities and individuals who oppose fracking, nuclear power, high voltage power lines, retail, residential, pedestrian and bike trails or school development as well as, diverse other forms of development have all been accused of NIMBYism, according to Naomi Oreskes, a professor of the history of science at Harvard University.
In a Washington Post article she says, “It’s time to rethink this term; stop hating on NIMBYs. They’re saving communities. There’s nothing wrong with standing up for our own communities, and standing with our fellow citizens who want to preserve their quality of life. Not everything about modernity is worth embracing. We have the right to protect and defend the things we care about.
Indeed, it’s defeatist not to.”
Commercial and residential developers, roll their eyes when certain so-called gadflies make remarks at Chesterfield County commission and board meetings.
I know one particular Supervisor that used to count the number of people who make remarks at public meetings about a development. He is known as a populist – listening to his constituents opinions and voting accordingly. But if you do not show up to voice your opinion, you have no one to blame but yourself when the Wendy’s drive-thru is built right behind your house, and you hear “OK, that will be an egg and sausage biscuit and a large coffee?” waking you in the morning.
More times than not, developers will listen and compromise, but it takes work on your part, and they will not listen if you do not speak up. If you and others speak up, like Oreskes says, you get what you deserve, a community that is slipping from what you thought it would be when you moved here. NIMBY sounds derogative, but it takes NIMBYism to keep those who are looking to profit from a community by doing what they want without listening.