People, planning and why ‘NIMBY’ has to go
NIMBY is an acronym that gets bandied about a lot when a group of residents disagrees with something they feel is imposed on them without consultation.
People aren’t always fans of change. And Toronto is changing. Fast. So although sometimes misguided, reacting in the face of runaway development is understandable to most.
Others, well, they use terms like NIMBY to quiet dissent, however valid.
Last month, the city’s own celebrity author Margaret Atwood and a few other wellknown Annex residents expressed their opinion that a local condominium development was not a fitting addition for their historic Toronto nabe.
The group, like so many other local residents groups, tried to offer a reasoned explanation about tree loss, shadowing and how the development went against current planning guidelines for that area. And once news hit social media, Atwood was attacked.
But she and her neighbours stuck to the principles, and the development will now head to the Ontario Municipal Board for mediation, resulting in a (somewhat) fair compromise.
We shouldn’t let development run unchecked, and we shouldn’t say no to everything that is proposed. There is a happy medium. But most importantly, we should not be tagging a person as a NIMBY simply to shut down debate.
In that very Annex neighbourhood, there was a proposal to plow an expressway right through the heart of it, and it wasn’t the only one. A few local residents stood up and said, essentially, not in my backyard, you don’t.
These two cases are fairly far apart. But it is important to acknowledge the need for healthy debate over these city building issues because once in a while there will be something that will have more severe and lasting repercussions, like a giant expressway dividing a neighbourhood.
Former Toronto chief planner Jennifer Keesmaat has done an incredible job of educating people about planning principles and engaging us all in the debate about how we want our city and our local communities to evolve. And I believe we are that much better as a result.
The more engaged and aware we are as citizens, the better our decisions will be, now and going forward.
So when we ask the big questions about how we want to live — questions about transit, bike lanes, about park and civic spaces, local economic development and more — we won’t just listen, we will participate.
For that, I thank her.
Margaret Atwood, not a NIMBY