A few Saturdays ago, my street was blocked off so the neighborhood could get together for a potluck. We talked about the BBQ and the Redskins, but mostly we talked about the new construction project at the end of Church Street: the church is selling a small parcel of green space to be developed into a high-rise condo. Conversations agenized over the diminishing park space; how the proposed building design doesn’t fit with the neighborhood’s architecture; the increased street congestion and noise…
With housing prices in DC as high as anywhere in the country, we appreciate the need for additional housing, but none of us want this condo building in our back yards. We’re a classic NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) group.
At PadillaCRT, we work with many great clients who build the infrastructure we rely on. Some build the roads, bridges, tracks, and stadiums that lower our commute times and give us reasons to celebrate; others build our communication infrastructure; still others supply the clean, renewable energy that powers us. And all of our infrastructure clients face NIMBY opposition at some point.
With experience from both sides of the NIMBY fence, here are my five communication tips to help your next infrastructure project stay on schedule and build a positive relationship with the community:
1. Work with officials early on – Meet in person with the planning commission and the city council, and brief both groups on the project’s scope. Make them understand the increased tax revenues, smoother travel times, economic stimulus, more affordable power, etc. Answer their questions candidly, and emphasize the care designed into the project that will ensure that it will be a win-win-win for the neighborhood, the city and the project developers.
2. Get the broader community in favor of the project – Schedule editorial briefings, broadcast interviews and consider coordinating a community reception so that everyone in the community is aware of the project’s details and benefits. If you do coordinate a community reception, be sure there are balanced viewpoints in the room.
3. Provide transparent, direct and accurate information – Develop a project website with the simple facts: the scope of the project, development plan, the benefits to the community, etc.
4. Listen and make sure the NIMBY group knows it’s being heard – Don’t stonewall against voiced concerns, but be open and transparent and try to find alignment between all stakeholders.
5. Limit surprises – Do what you say you’re going to do, and when changes do come up make sure they’re publicized ASAP so people can plan ahead.