Peo­ple, plan­ning and why ‘NIMBY’ has to go

Richmond Hill Post - - News - By Ron John­son

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 the GTA 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 res­i­dents ex­pressed their opin­ion that a con­do­minium de­vel­op­ment near them 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 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

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