Not in my backyard’

Published 8:47 am Wednesday, August 16, 2017


NIMBYs is probably not a term most people are familiar with, but urban planners are all too familiar with this term. NIMBY stands for “Not In My Back Yard” and is often used to describe residents in a community who object to development or improvement near their property, but not elsewhere in the community. Every city has them and, I would argue, that almost all of us have been a NIMBY at one time or another.
An example of NIMBYism would be if a new apartment complex was proposed off Mary Patton Highway and the back of the complex would back up to Golf Course Acres. Residents of Golf Course Acres would be highly opposed to the complex being located on this site, but would alternatively suggest it be moved to the other side of the highway or further down the highway. They don’t mind or may even encourage it to be in the city, just not immediately adjacent to THEIR property – put it in someone else’s back yard just not mine. (Just to clarify, this is not planned and cannot even happen under existing zoning code in that area.)
Please don’t misunderstand what I am saying. I want to encourage all residents to participate in the planning process, ensure that your concerns are made known to city staff and the Planning Commission. Additionally, get involved in the planning process in general. Know what zones are located near your property and what, if any, development plans are proposed for property near you. In planning, there is a concept call by-right development. This means if you purchase a piece of property that allows a Dollar General to be located on it no matter how much the citizens oppose the new building at that location, the Planning Commission and City Staff cannot deny the building be built because the zone allows it to be built. Therefore, it’s important to get involved before you hear about the development coming in.
City staff and the Planning Commission have implemented regulations and negotiate closely with developers to help ensure that new developments do not negatively impact existing developments. We, for example, may require tree buffers to minimize light and sound impacts, we may require improvements to existing roads to be able to accommodate higher levels of traffic, or we may get creative with aesthetics to ensure the new development doesn’t look out of place with the existing development.
At some point, most of the neighborhoods we live in today were opposed by NIMBYs. When the upper portion of Golf Course Acres or Whitney Estates were developed, I’m sure there were people in adjoining neighborhoods claiming higher traffic volumes would make streets dangerous for children, adding more homes would decrease their property values and the need for traffic lights or speed bumps. These are all things we look at when we see a new development come into our city.
If you know of a new development that may happen near your neighborhood let Planning Commissioners or Planning Staff know your concerns and we will work to minimize or address your concerns. Get involved in planning when we ask for public input or hold public meetings. Ultimately, however, when you live in the city you must expect new development to inevitably occur and sometimes it might be in your backyard. Let’s talk about it!
(Jon Hartman is Director of Planning & Economic Development for the City of Elizabethton. He can be contacted by calling 542-1503 or by emailing:

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox