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Study finds NIMBYism on the decline thanks to recession

A new survey published by The Saint Consulting Group theorizes NIMBY attitudes are taking a back seat to the recession. NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) is a term used to “describe opposition by residents to a proposal for a new development close to them. Opposing residents themselves are sometimes called “Nimbies.”

The term was coined in the 1980s by British politician Nicholas Ridley, who was Conservative Secretary of State for the Environment,” according to the all-knowing Wikipedia.

Commercial projects and developments frequently fall prey to NIMBY oppositions, such as pristine farmland being developed into a subdivision. Chemical plants, wind farm turbines, smelly and noisy manufacturing operations, even shopping centers and power plants — all kinds of commercial ventures can spark opposition from neighbors and incite the locals.

Recession = New Practicality

At least, as long as the economy is just humming along. Apparently NIMBY-like behaviors decline when the public is either too preoccupied with their own problems to worry about what’s going on next door, or when they actually might recognize the newest Wal-Mart or big box retailer might bring them jobs. Tough times brings a new level of practicality out in the public.

The survey interviewed 1,000 adults nationwide and 68% stated they are “more likely to support new projects in their hometown in light of the current economic situation,” which is up 10% from the same time period one year ago.

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In conflicting terms, however, most Americans still feel that their particular area is overdeveloped or fine as is. Only 24% said their town needs new development.

The most unwanted projects: a landfill (74% opposed), a casino (72%), and a quarry (59%).  The projects with the most support: single family homes (87%) and groceries (74%). The Mid-Atlantic is the most actively NIMBY region, followed by the Northeast. The Midwest is the region most welcoming to local development.

The Saint Consulting Group specializes in winning zoning and land-use battles, according to their web page. To read the 2010 Saint Index, click on the hotlink provided for an executive summary.

Flickr photo courtesy epugachev

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Written By

Erica Ramus is the Broker/Owner of Ramus Realty Group in Pottsville, PA. She also teaches real estate licensing courses at Penn State Schuylkill and is extremely active in her community, especially the Rotary Club of Pottsville and the Schuylkill Chamber of Commerce. Her background is writing, marketing and publishing, and she is the founder of Schuylkill Living Magazine, the area's regional publication. She lives near Pottsville with her husband and two teenage sons, and an occasional exchange student passing thru who needs a place to stay.



  1. Nick Nymark

    August 5, 2010 at 8:04 pm

    Have not heard of “Not In My Back Yard ” before.

  2. Coy Davidson

    August 6, 2010 at 12:01 am

    Interesting, Wal-Mart is getting some pretty stiff resistance from residents in Houston currently. They are making their first plays at Urban in-fill locations and has some people in an up-roar. All though they have lots of store in Houston, they have stayed in the suburbs up until now. However, we do not have zoning in Houston so its a real long-shot for the opponents to keep Wally World out.

  3. Jonathan Benya

    August 6, 2010 at 7:56 am

    NIMBY’s still seem to abound in my region, but then, they’ve always been against any sort of development for any reason they can think of.

    • Erica Ramus

      August 6, 2010 at 8:27 am

      Yes here too. I just read about a local developer having problems with permissions for his new housing development. And I have a vacant commercial property I’m worried about filling because it’s in the middle of a residential area. Prior use was grandfathered in, but now it’s surrounded by houses.

  4. Lani Rosales

    August 6, 2010 at 11:38 am

    I live in Austin, land of the universal hippyisms, so here, it’s not NIMBYish, it’s NIABY (not in ANYONE’s back yard)- pockets of the city are against any development of any kind, but drive north and you get a universal “yes please” to ANY development. Strange town, great article 🙂

  5. Al Lorenz

    August 6, 2010 at 2:12 pm

    I thought the bit about the relationship developers have with elected officials being considered unfair was interesting. The NIMBYs love complex regulations they can use to slow or stop development. Those same regulations are the reason that developers have a “relationship” with elected officials. If the process was simple, they would hardly know each other.

  6. Tom from Carmel Indiana

    August 12, 2010 at 12:43 pm

    Funny how casinos are only 2 percent behind landfills! I personally think casinos can be great for the economy, and can be very classy when done right.

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