Guest Column: Overcome NIMBY Opposition Before it Stalls Your Project

esolved in other ways. When negotiation is the only answer, then there are three types of concessions to consider during negotiation:Your project can be modified to remove the real or perceived threat to neighbors’ interests. Project modifications often involve physical changes related to density, height, acreage, use and so on.Unavoidable negative impacts can be reduced to less offensive levels through the incorporation of mitigation measures. For example, attractive landscaping can mitigate the view impacts of a new mixed-use project. Like project modifications, mitigation measures are aimed at meeting neighbors’ negative interests to preserve the status quo.It may be possible to appeal to neighbors’ positive interests by offering counter-balancing benefits: some new feature, amenity, or program so desirable that it offsets the negative impacts of the project, such as providing more public open space or community facilities such as child care centers or senior centers.The Right Outreach CampaignAll community opposition is not alike, and the wrong type of outreach response can create more problems than it solves. If opposition isn’t caused by lack of information, then newsletters and fact sheets will backfire. Making concessions won’t resolve opposition based on unmet emotional needs. Endless meetings won’t solve conflicts of interest. But by carefully diagnosing the cause of opposition and undertaking outreach activities specifically tailored to respond to that cause, you can reduce citizen opposition to your project.(Debra Stein is the author of several books on NIMBYism and president of GCA Strategies, a national public affairs firm specializing in controversial land use projects  (

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