Top Ten Takeaways From Combatting NIMBYism Breakfast Briefing

03 May 2017 Publication
Authors: Donna J. Pugh Michael D. Noonan

Understanding and Combatting Objections to Real Estate Developments

On April 25th, Foley hosted a Land Use Connection Breakfast Briefing on Combatting NIMBYism. Donna Pugh, Land Use Real Estate Partner, served as the moderator for the event. We had three featured presenters as well: Doug Farr, President of Farr Associates, Emily Talen, Professor of Urbanism at the University of Chicago, and Christopher Dillion, President of Campbell Coyle Holdings.

Below is a summary of the Top Ten Takeaways from the session:

  1. Present multiple design choices to communities: As Doug Farr mentioned, by presenting multiple design options, you’re less likely to get a complete denial of the project and to arrive at a consensus. And, show people what they’re asking for. Sometimes the community thinks they know what they want, but once they can visualize it and see the data, they might come to realize that what they’re asking for isn’t reasonable.
  2. Create a website: As Stephen Ross mentioned during his great tips section, one fantastic idea is to get feedback from neighbors, allies, and opposition groups by creating a website that you consistently monitor and respond to as the project moves forward. And, make sure you’re collecting email addresses and sending updates about the website to folks who have attended the community meetings.
  3. Who is being represented: Be conscious of the fact that objectors might represent more than themselves. Make an effort to discern the real stakeholders.
  4. Engage immediate neighbors first: As Chris Dillion mentioned, the biggest threat to your project are your neighbors, and by reaching out to them immediately, you’re more likely to neutralize them early and show that you care about the impact of your project on them. Consider going to their homes and offering your personal contact information (cellphone number) to show that you their opinions are serious and matter to you.
  5. Show people what they’re asking for: Consider quantifying the level of support by understanding the level of support the community has for the project (via informal voting), so you can better assess your political capital.
  6. Systemic Challenges Remain: As Emily Talen mentioned, despite knowing that public engagement, relationship building, and community education are key, there still remains an alarming lack of political and organizational infrastructure to make the process smoother and get buy-in where it is most needed.
  7. Three feedback loops: Don’t get discouraged if it takes several rounds of community outreach before reaching a consensus with the community. It often takes three or more rounds to hit the mark.
  8. Avoid large groups: If you have to present in front of a large group of people, consider breaking the audience into smaller subgroups, if possible. Also, consider conducting design charrettes where participants are broken out into small groups.
  9. Be more than a developer: The word “developer” isn’t always the most appreciated term, but by being personable, reliable, and by connecting with concerned neighbors on their level, the stigma is likely to lessen. And make sure you’re not hiding behind your consultants. Be present and active in your outreach efforts.
  10. Limit your entitlement requests: Don’t shoot for the sky. Be reasonable and you’re more likely to overcome community resistance.

If you have any questions or would like to learn more, please contact Donna Pugh, Matt Gomez, or Mike Noonan.

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