Wednesday, April 02, 2008

NIMBY Nomenclature

The label "NIMBY" is often thrown around pejoratively (usually to criticize someone for being unreasonable) so much that a while back I tried to qualify the term to show that there are times when it is such opposition is based at least as much on reason as on emotion. The latest neighborhood battle in southeast Davidson County over rezoning to allow a Christian halfway house has got me thinking about class issues and NIMBY as well as a more nuanced and accurate lexicon for social opposition to zoning issues.

Here is the beginning of a list of acronyms that start with the conventional label and introduce others that qualify the original:

NIMBY -- "Not In My Back Yard" -- the standard acronym for opposition to locating less attractive services in the neighborhood; more accurately applied to middle and lower class neighborhoods who typically face the prospect, but don't have hard currency to resist, and thus they turn to organizing social capital

AIMBY -- "Already In My Back Yard" -- qualifies NIMBY issues in those neighborhoods that have shouldered a large part of the social service load, and who want others without halfway houses and charities to assume their fair share of the burden; still more social capital, less hard capital

NEVIMBY -- "Never In My Back Yard" -- neighborhoods that are NIMBY along with possessing the wealth to insure that they can always buy their way out of social responsibility; they only organize social capital when hard currency fails to provide an effective fire break


  1. I like IMBYWC. It can mean two things:
    1. "In My Back Yard With Conditions" -- if halfway houses, group homes, etc. were actually LICENSED and MONITORED in this state (remind me to send you an email with some work that the Vanderbilt Legal Clinic is doing on this issue), I think many people would have less of a problem with them.

    2. "In My Back Yard With Consent" -- meaning that the neighbors are actually consulted about the development in question, encouraged to give feedback and make the proposal workable because they actually had a say in decision making.

    One of the better examples of #2 took place in Sam Coleman's district a little more than a year ago. Neighbors were dead set against any new development until adequate infrastructure was in place to handle the density. By meeting with the neighbors, asking what they wanted to see in the neighborhood and incorporating that feedback, a developer was able to create a "product" that met everyone's needs (which included less density and the creation of a much needed public park/playground).

    In my experience, what is often considered NIMBYism is simply residents expressing their rage at not being consulted in the first place about what goes in their back yard.

  2. Your analysis is so on point. Thank you for understanding our plight. It's not that we don't welcome such projects, but it is fair to say that it should be shared by everyone not overwhelmingly in one part of the county. Thank you for your insight and discussion on this issue.