When new projects are proposed for an area, municipal governments will often request development studies to review potential impacts to the environment, traffic flows, the local economy and more. These are reasonable and fair considerations.What is often overlooked or underestimated are the impacts of doing nothing.
The assumption is that doing nothing or saying “no” means that we are accepting the status quo. The reality is that there are costs to not building.

Growth will occur. From an environmental standpoint, infill development is preferable to greenfield development and yet it is more difficult to achieve within the current regulatory structure. Some locations make more sense than others. Ultimately, we have a responsibility to measure both the impacts of building and of not building a residential or commercial development.

There is a local, vocal group of obstructionists whose mission it is to reflexively block densification and development of any kind on the Saanich Peninsula. We know them by another name: NIMBYists (Not In My BackYard). Land-use regulations lawyer Chris Bradford has developed a theory and definition of NIMBYism and suggests the goal of NIMBYs is to monopolize access to neighbourhood amenities and protect the value of their “club” membership.

From Chris’ blog Club NIMBY: “The fundamental problem is that homeowners tend to settle on their opposition first and back-fill the reasons for it later. This doesn’t mean they’re lying or deliberately advancing flimsy arguments. They’re just dead set against the development, and people who are dead set against something can be extraordinarily creative in coming up with reasons to justify their opposition to themselves and to others.”

When we understand the organized, institutionalized opposition of NIMBYs, we will be less likely to succumb to their pressure which has, over time, resulted in strict development regulations and a limited supply of housing where we need it. The NIMBYs are the noisy exception. Most homeowners are not opposing every new development.

Developing flexible land-use plans with minimal strict limit designations and single-use zonings would generate community and economic development opportunities and render us less vulnerable to generations of future NIMBYs. Our development approval process should also consider the potentially significant lost opportunity costs of saying “no”.

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