CNU XV Blog, Part 8: the NIMBY veto

MLewyn's picture

At a panel of developers, someone pointed out that several cities had neighborhood planning boards, and that they were "institutionalized NIMBYism."* I knew that Washington and Atlanta have neighborhood planning units, but I had always wondered what their function was. Now I know.

This illustrates a broader problem in planning theory: to what extent should neighbors have disproportionate impact in planning policy? The dominant American practice has been that neighbors should have an almost absolute veto. But this practice (institutionalized in the neighborhood planning boards) can and should be attacked from both the environmentalist left and the libertarian right. Libertarians should oppose the NIMBY veto on development because it means more regulation and thus more infringement on property rights. Environmentalists should oppose the NIMBY veto because it typically means less infill and lower density, thus leading to more sprawl development in outer suburbs with fewer neighbors to object.

The difficult question, for me is: what institutional mechanisms can we create that eliminate the NIMBY veto instead of magnifying the voice of NIMBYism?

*NIMBY= Not In My Back Yard


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