Examples of NIMBYism in Ontario

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| Published , updated April 15, 2024

NIMBY stands for “not in my back yard”, and is a pejorative term used to describe opposition by residents to proposed developments in their area, including affordable housing developments and homeless shelters. A NIMBY opposes a development because it is close to them and would tolerate or support it if it were built further away, often suggesting alternative locations for the project proposal they oppose.

Other acronyms include:

BANANA – Build Absolutely Nothing Near Anyone individuals oppose land development

“CAVE dwellers” – Citizens Against Virtually Everything individuals oppose change in any form

NIMBY, CAVE and BANANA individuals often express their views publicly by attending council meetings, writing letters to the local newspaper, or calling in to talk radio shows. This can distort public perceptions, as opponents of change are often more vocal than its supporters.

Common reasons given by opponents of developments (NIMBYs) for delaying/preventing/relocating developments

NIMBYs may raise the following complaints:

  • Lack of consultation
  • Selection process
  • Community harm

NIMBYs may say development will have negative consequences including:

  • Deterioration of property values
  • Destroying “neighbourhood character”
  • Affect their privacy
  • More competition for parking
  • Unwanted shadows
  • Increased traffic
  • Congested subways
  • Crowded sidewalks
  • Disruptions due to construction
  • Loss of lower priced housing
  • Demolition of a favourite place

They may ask for:

  • More time/consultation with the community

Municipalities have financial tools to help offset some of these outcomes, like development charges and parkland dedication fees that are used to improve, refresh, renew, and build public spaces and transit.

Adding housing in single family neighbourhoods gets a lot of pushback

Affordable housing replacing underused parking lots in Stoney Creek

A development of 67 units of affordable housing that would replace two municipal parking lots which have been zoned for development since the early 1990s and are considered under-utilized (at most 80% full). 5 Lake Ave S could become a 3-storey building with 24 affordable units and 13 Lake Avenue South a 5-storey building with 43 units, providing affordable housing to some of the 6,100 people on waitlists.

Stoney Creek BIA and residents submitted a petition with 1,318 signatures (which was redacted), insisting the lots at 5 and 13 Lake Avenue South were critical for nearby small businesses and medical clinics.

Our community is at risk due to the city of Hamilton’s proposal to build two low-income buildings right in our downtown core. This plan poses serious challenges for our already congested area.

Our downtown core is currently struggling with limited parking availability for existing residents. The influx of new residents will exacerbate this issue and intensify traffic on King Street which runs through the heart of our community.

Change.org petition

8 councillors had opposed the proposal: Matt Francis (Ward 5), Tom Jackson (Ward 6), Esther Pauls (Ward 7), Brad Clark (Ward 9), Jeff Beattie (Ward 10), Mike Spadafora (Ward 14) and Ted McMeekin (Ward 15).

Coun. Matt Francis and Coun. Jeff Beattie asked staff to also look at the feasibility of building the affordable housing elsewhere, suggesting above the Dominic Agostino Riverdale Community Centre. Beattie said he’s also reviewing other sites in his east Stoney Creek ward.

  • Ward 10 Councillor Jeff Beattie: The 13 Lake Ave. S. property was the site of the original Stoney Creek fire hall and has historical significance to the community.
  • Ward 5 Councillor Matt Francis: asked for more time to consult with the community on the two properties on Lake Avenue South. Beattie said he was elected on transparency and he wants time to tell the residents. “I know for a fact my residents don’t know about this,”

5 Lake Ave S, Google Maps
13 Lake Ave S, Google Maps

Mayor Andrea Horwath vetoed this decision using strong mayor powers to allow the development to proceed.

Emergency shelter in Cobourg

The Town of Cobourg purchased a former retirement home at 310 Division St to expand the town’s only emergency shelter of 4 rooms and 22 individuals to 47 rooms and include transitional housing.

310 Division St., Google Maps

In response, business and property of nearby properties ask for pause, more public consultation, and the safeguarding of Cobourg’s charm and security:

Unfortunately, vandalism, theft, explicit drug use, trespassing, intimidation, dumping (of) garbage, public urination and defecation, as well as verbal and physical assaults, continue to be daily occurrences on our properties and at our businesses — more so than in any other neighbourhood in Cobourg, or likely Northumberland County

we are genuinely concerned about the state of chaos that has become commonplace in our neighbourhood and extending into the downtown over the last four years, as well as the lack of meaningful progress to improve these issues.

Over the last four years, as a result of the opioid crisis, Transition House changed their model of care, becoming a low-barrier emergency shelter and drastically, negatively altering the neighbourhood.

Jeff Crowley, owner of Cobourg Orthopaedic & Sports Injury Clinic – COSIC, 304 Division St. and 310 Division St.

We have found discarded substance paraphernalia, garbage, weapons and personal belongings. We have been accosted by individuals in mental health crisis or under the influence of substances.

We have been woken up in the middle of the night to fights in the middle of the road, to individuals being injured by vehicles. We have (had) individuals bang on our building, and yell and scream at the top of their lungs.

We are not saying that the residents (who) move into 310 Division St., have been or will be individuals that we have had interactions with, but we are concerned that the relocation of Transition House to 310 Division St. – and the vision to expand the number of accommodation spaces and increased service delivery, will increase the number of instances and interactions impacting our safety and security, and our quality of life.

Chloe Craig, whose family owns 8 affordable rental units in the property next door to 310 Division

The proposed acquisition of 310 Division Street is particularly troubling given the current challenges faced by our downtown core. Increased crime rates, violence, garbage, loitering in business entryways, and the presence of drug paraphernalia are issues that are already affecting the well-being of our community. Accelerating such changes without proper consultation raises concerns about the accelerated degradation of the downtown core in Cobourg.

I understand the urgency of addressing homelessness, but it is equally important to consider the impact on the existing community. This decision should be a conversation, not a directive. I urge the Council to ensure that the voices of homeowners and business owners are heard and that their concerns are given due consideration in this significant decision-making process.

David Battersby correspondence

By turning this building into a shelter, you are forever changing the landscape of Division Street. Residents and retailers are already struggling with drug and crime issues created by Transition House, etc. are now being forced to reckon with reduced housing values due to increased violence, and growing drug issues created by the permanent placement of this facility. It’s simply unbelievable that you would purchase a building on behalf of the shelter and not include the town in the conversation.

Ann and James Grozier

it’s crucial to consider alternative uses for this premium space. Rather than converting it into a shelter, the location could be utilized for income-based rentals, dedicated units for downtrodden seniors, or much-needed affordable housing. These options would contribute to addressing the broader housing challenges in Northumberland County, ensuring a more inclusive and sustainable community. 

Change.org petition by David B

January 31, 2024 – Recent Cobourg transplant from Toronto concerned how it “affects the fabric of our community”

I am writing to you as a concerned member of the Cobourg community, deeply troubled by the proposed development of 310 Division Street into a massive 12,000 sq. ft. lowbarrier shelter. I ask that this letter be added to the Jan 31st council meeting as we urgently seek your support to look at options for the Low Barrier shelter; options that provide accountability and direction.

The current approach of grouping individuals facing various challenges, from addiction to mental health issues, into a one-size-fits-all low-barrier model has proven to be ineffective. Cities like London, ON, have successfully implemented segmented and classified systems to address the diverse needs of those experiencing homelessness. There are individuals within Northumberland living in their cars, seniors struggling to afford housing, and families in need of support. These individuals could benefit from a shelter system that isn’t overwhelmed by those facing addiction and mental health challenges.

Our community has witnessed firsthand the destructive impacts associated with the clients of low-barrier shelters, and it has taken a toll on the economic vitality of our town. The fear induced by ongoing criminal activity, defecation on private properties, mental health outbursts, and a general sense of insecurity has made the town less inviting. Placing the proposed 45-room facility in the heart of Cobourg is a recipe for further division within our community.

We implore you to consider the voice of the residents of Cobourg and Northumberland County. Our mental health, safety, and well-being need to be prioritized in these discussions. The impact of this development goes beyond municipal and county lines; it affects the fabric of our community and requires collective attention and collaborative solutions.

As we express our concerns, we also recognize the complexity of this issue. However, it is crucial to ensure that the development aligns with the best interests of the community. We request your support in amplifying our concerns, urging a comprehensive review of this proposal, and seeking alternative solutions that benefit everyone involved.

Thank you for your time and consideration. We look forward to your support in safeguarding the charm and security of our town.

Resident Cindy McAdam Battersby, who “owns a 5,000-square foot home with a sprawling backyard and outdoor pool in Cobourg, Ont”

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