NIMBY or Nimby is an acronym for Not In My Back Yard. The term is used pejoratively to describe a new development's opposition by residents in its vicinity. The new project being opposed is generally considered a benefit for many but has negative side-effects on its close surroundings. As a result, residents nearby the immediate location would consider it undesirable and would generally prefer the building to be "elsewhere". The term was coined in the 1980s by British politician Nicholas Ridley, who was Conservative Secretary of State for the Environment.
Projects likely to be opposed include wind turbines, incinerators, power plants and prisons, but far more commonly the concept is associated with obstruction and objections to transportation improvements and mobile telephone network masts.
NIMBY and its derivative terms NIMBYism, NIMBYs, and NIMBYists, refer implicitly to debates of development generally or to a specific case. As such, their use is inherently contentious. The Oxford English Dictionary identifies the acronym's earliest use as being in 1980 in the Christian Science Monitor. The term is usually applied to opponents of a development, implying that they have narrow, selfish, or myopic views. Its use is often pejorative.
The term has been applied in debates over developments in various situations, including:
Opposition to certain developments as inappropriate anywhere in the world is characterised by the acronym NIABY (Not In Anyone's Backyard). The building of nuclear power plants, for example, is often subject to NIABY concerns. Other terms for the same phenomenon are BANANA (Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anything).
Not Against My Business or Industry. Used as a label for any business concern that expresses umbrage with actions or policy that threaten that business, whereby they are believed to be complaining about the principle of the action or policy only for their interests alone and not for all similar business concerns who would equally suffer from the actions or policies. The term serves as a criticism of the kind of outrage that business expresses when disingenuously portraying its protest to be for the benefit of all other businesses. This opposition is characterised by the acronym NAMBI (Not Against My Business or Industry). Such a labelling would occur for example when opposition expressed by a business involved in urban development is challenged by activists - causing the business to in turn protest and appealing for support from fellow businesses lest they also find themselves challenged where they seek urban development. This term also serves as a rhetorical counter to NIMBY. Seen as an equivalent to NIMBY by those opposing the business or industry in question.
Points of debate
Frequently argued debate points in favor of development include higher employment, tax revenue, marginal cost of remote development, safety, and environmental benefits.
Those opposed to development might argue against increases in local traffic, harm to small business, loss of property value, environmental degradation, loss of a community's small-town feel, strain of public resources and schools, disproportionate benefit to non-locals or new residents, increases in crime, and failure to "blend in" with the surrounding architecture.
Proponents of development may accuse locals of elitism, parochialism, drawbridge mentality, that public services are demanded without regard to how government will pay for them, that private sector companies provide or improve upon services without regard to what infrastructure is required to deliver them, opposition to diversity, inevitability of criticism, and misguided or unrealistic claims of prevention of urban sprawl.
In the English village of Ashtead, Surrey, which lies on the outside of London, residents objected to the conversion of a large, £1.7 million residential property into a family support centre for relatives of wounded British service personnel. The house was to be purchased by a charity, SSAFA Forces Help. Local residents objected to the proposal out of fear of increased traffic and noise, as well as the possibility of an increased threat of terrorism. They also contended that the SSAFA charity is actually a business, thereby setting an unwelcome precedent. Local newspapers ran articles titled "Nimby neighbours' war with wounded soldiers' families" and "No Heroes in my Backyard."
Ex-servicemen and several members of the British general public organised a petition in support of SSAFA, and even auctioned the "Self Respect of Ashtead" on eBay.
In Alexandria, Virginia, people who opposed high-density development in Potomac Yard were faulted for demanding an additional Washington Metro station while simultaneously opposing the scale of development that would provide either sufficient funds for the station or sufficient ridership to justify its construction.
In 1969, when Deerfield officials learned that a developer building a neighborhood of large new homes planned to make houses available to African Americans, they issued a stop-work order. An intense debate began about racial integration, property values, and the good faith of the community officials and builders. For a brief time, Deerfield was spotlighted in the national news as "the Little Rock of the North." Supporters of integration were denounced and ostracized by angry residents. Eventually, the village passed a referendum to build parks on the property, thus putting an end to the housing development. Two model homes already partially completed were sold to village officials. Otherwise, the land lay dormant for years before it was developed into what is now Mitchell Pool and Park and Jaycee Park. The first black family did not move into Deerfield until much later. This episode in Deerfield's history is described in But Not Next Door by Harry and David Rosen, both residents of Deerfield.
Nantucket Sound, Massachusetts
Some residents and businesses of Cape Cod, Martha's Vineyard, and Nantucket Island have opposed construction of Cape Wind, a proposed offshore wind farm in Nantucket Sound. Proponents cite the environmental, economic, and energy security benefits of clean, renewable energy, while opponents are against any obstruction to the views from oceanfront vacation homes and tourist destinations based in the region.
St. Lucie County, Florida
Similar to the situation in Nantucket Sound, Mass., a minority of residents in St. Lucie County, Florida have vehemently opposed the construction of wind turbines in the county. The construction of the wind turbines is strongly supported by over 80% of county residents according to a 2008 Florida Power and Light (FPL) poll.Additionally, the power company proposed building the turbines in a location on a beach near a prior existing nuclear power plant owned by the company.
Published - July 2009
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