How to Embrace Your Inner NIMBY

Jun 09, 2018

Are you a NIMBY? A progressive person who is supportive of new projects which make life better in your town…as long as they are not in your backyard? Shameful as it is to admit, I know I am at times and I bet you are, too. We can’t help it. We’re all NIMBY’s on Cape Cod.

At a recent meeting I watched a guy fulminate about the horrific traffic problems that were sure to ensue if a Marijuana Dispensary was allowed on the highway near his house. It doesn’t matter that Route Six in Wellfleet is as barren as a donkey path for the better part of the year, or that it’s home to many liquor stores, or that it appears as a mere footnote on the Cape Cod Commission’s High Crash Locations report. He could clearly envision the pile-ups and collisions, the screaming ambulances and the bodies that would be strewn on the median strip.

We’re all myopic about proposed new projects; that is, the closer they are to our homes, the more we can see the imminent danger; the farther out of sight, the more advantageous they seem. Years ago, for instance this same person supported a massive industrial composting factory that was proposed on a winding country road. He was wildly gung ho about the financial benefits and the positive environmental impacts. But because it was near my house, my neighbors and I became the screaming NIMBY’s: disrupting meetings, leafleting, writing letters to the editor. Here on Cape Cod what side of a new project you’re on often depends if it’s alongside your house.

Traffic is the most effective rallying cry because everyone dislikes traffic, no one can predict it, there’s nothing we can do about it, and best of all, opposing sides can both use it to their advantage. It doesn’t matter if you’re proposing to build a massive superstore or a little gas station. There’s going to be a lot of traffic in the summer and very little in winter.

Having sat on town boards for well over thirty years now and observed hearings where traffic consultants have made presentations about the potential impact of movie theaters, food trucks, Dunkin Donuts, supermarkets, gyms, McMansions, health clinics, parking lots, and housing developments, my take away was always the same: I should have trained to become a traffic consultant because those were the only ones sure to make any money.

People who live in developed areas like Cape Cod, as opposed to great open spaces like Arizona, are always in danger of becoming NIMBY’s because almost everything has to be retrofitted into an existing environment. Whether it’s a wind turbine or affordable housing it’s going to excite some folks and piss off others because wherever you site it there’s somebody there.

With the arrival of a letter from your local zoning board alerting you to a hearing because you are suddenly an abutter to some great new plan, you have suddenly become a NIMBY.

So instead of stressing out about being a NIMBY I suggest we embrace it, have fun with it, celebrate it. And with that in mind, I am proposing a new icon, a new symbol to represent all of us Cape Cod homeowners, the NIMBY doll.

Think about it. There are action figures and bobble head dolls; Barbies, Gumbies, and Sindy’s, so why not NIMBY’s? They could be sold at gift shops along with chocolate covered cranberries and lobster trap charms. They certainly represent the present day Cape Codder better than stuffed toy fishermen and sharks.

What would the Cape Cod NIMBY doll look like? Well, it would be an older white person, because that’s the demographic of homeowners in Barnstable County. And it would wear great big glasses, because NIMBY’s are very nearsighted. And it would definitely be wearing a t-shirt. One that says I LOVE THE CAPE COD COMMISSION on one side and I HATE THE CAPE COD COMMISSION on the other, because of course the Commission both supports projects like sewers and rejects projects like Lowes.

Face it, people, whatever gets built out here is gonna be in somebody’s backyard. So don’t hate your neighbor for supporting it or get down on yourself for opposing it. Unless you want to move the desert, it’s time to embrace your inner NIMBY.

I’m Ira Wood…and that’s my opinion.