Linda Goldstein Consulting

What NIMBYs Can Teach Us

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When I was Mayor of Clayton, MO, we sometimes locked horns with residents when we proposed development projects in their neighborhood.

These were the residents who wanted no change at all… EVER…

…The residents were referred to as NIMBYs (Not In My BackYard).

Sound familiar?

Dealing with NIMBYs is a major challenge for government officials. I hear it often: “We have a great plan, but the NIMBYs are fighting it.”

I recently presented a workshop called “UrbanPlan for Public Officials” for a group of mayors.

The workshop, developed by the Urban Land Institute, engages public leaders in a case study about the challenging issues, complex trade-offs, and economics that influence land-use decisions and commercial real estate development.

One of the challenges we discussed was, of course, NIMBYs.

I shared lessons learned from my fourteen-year career in office which included more than a few battles with residents who said, “Not in my backyard.”

Here are those lessons:

    • Government officials must listen and ask the right questions.
    • Residents who oppose your plan are not the enemy. They are stakeholders in a shared community.
    • If you listen carefully, ask the right questions and encourage respectful dialog, you may identify ways to work together and reach a workable compromise for all.
    • Participatory policymaking sparks community input and results in more innovative solutions. Citizens who would otherwise be uninvolved in their community are more apt to tune-in when their neighbors are discussing important issues. More participation means more satisfaction with the ultimate decision and fosters the public’s support for this and future initiatives.
    • Grassroots participation and respectful citizen protest can stimulate community interest and help elected leaders make better, more informed decisions.


It doesn’t always end with happy consensus. But when you respectfully treat opponents as fellow stakeholders, not “dreaded NIMBYs,” the process is less heated and difficult.

Instead of the negative stereotyping, perhaps we should be thanking the NIMBYs for promoting positive change in our communities.


Here’s a link to book a 30 minute call to discuss “UrbanPlan for Public Officials” or any of our services:

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