Urban Defender

Urban Defender: Advice to Developers in addressing the NIMBY challenge

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Advice to Developers in addressing the NIMBY challenge

One of the problems that developers face when seeking to engage a community is the voluntary nature of ratepayer or neighbourhood groups when they exist, and the general level of disorganization in cases where they do not but where there may be significant voices that can have an impact on the successful realization of a development project.

When there are ratepayer or neighbourhood groups these are generally all volunteer organizations, which may or may not be incorporated, and no matter how broad based they may be they usually cannot be said to represent the whole community. As well there are often overlapping interest groups, and there may be rival ratepayer groups, and “people of influence” who may have unequal access to the Ward Councillor or possess special expertise.

The complexity of navigating these waters can seem like a costly waste of time, especially if previously experiences have caused a developer to feel that there is no one to make a deal with. And in a sense such a thought has some accuracy. If, for instance, the leader/representative of a given neighbourhood organization or condominium, etc., wants to shake hands on something, it often may be something for which they have insufficient mandate. Hence their support may not hold out through an elongated process or if the Councillor is in opposition to the project or if it comes to an OMB hearing.

Navigating these complexities can be made safer and more cost-effective by understanding the function and nature of ratepayer and neighbourhood groups, by doing due diligence in regard to any undertakings they or their representatives may make.

It is also critical that residents, business leaders and stakeholders beyond the communities “usual suspects” be consulted or made aware of a given project, as allies and supporters for regeneration and development may be found in recent arrivals, local business taxpayers, and in the generally interested but unaligned segments of a given community.

Knowing the community and its politics, understanding the way the local community groups interact and how they make decisions, along with providing opportunities for stakeholders (who may well include prospective buyers or renters, heritage experts, design experts, local community agency staff, et al), can only strengthen the position and positive reception of a developer.

Although this will entail some real costs, and some time, it is reasonable to assume that a modest investment in upfront outreach and consultation will have the potential to save money in downstream legal costs and project delays.


At 11:50 p.m., Anonymous Gethin Davison said...

I am interested in learning more about these issues in the Toronto context - I am currently undertaking research in Melbourne on a similar topic.
I would be very interested to exchange ideas and knowledge,
Many thanks,
Gethin Davison

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