By on October 5, 2016

NIMBY not to blame


NIMBYism has a bad name, for sure.  But your article (The Buzz: “Mass Exodus,” September 28) seems to suggest that trying to enforce zoning regulations that are already in place is as serious a threat to community values as using any means available to stop what appears to be a legal subdivision proposed by the ranch owner next door.  These actions are not the same, even though they both involve law enforcement – and both, of course, involve interpreting the law.  Expecting and requiring one’s neighbor to abide by local zoning restrictions should not automatically be lumped in with trying to stop one’s neighbor from using legal means to improve or develop his property.  Your article, if I read it correctly, suggests that both are examples of the dreaded NIMBYism that you claim is “largely to blame for the valley’s woes.”

As one of the founders of the Jackson Hole Community Housing Trust in the early 1990, my heart goes out to Katie and Scott Wood who tried so hard to make a go of it here in Jackson Hole.  And certainly they have given a lot back to this community, though they could not bend the iron laws of supply and demand, as currently regulated by Teton County zoning, that prevented them from joining us for the long term.  They had no way around the market, or around the law.

My wife and I, who did indeed spearhead the fight against the Siegfrieds’ commercial party house, did so because it was against the current zoning regulations.  In other words, just as with their helicopter use, it was illegal.  When the county decided to rewrite the laws to make it legal we weighed in, as was our right, against establishing this kind of commercial venture in a quiet, rural residential neighborhood.  We lost the fight and the law got changed.  I do not know what happened after that, except that the Siegfrieds started the application process for a Conditional Use Permit for their party house but then dropped it a few months later.

It’s great that the Siegfrieds supported a lot of community efforts and we all thank them for it.  That fact has no bearing, though, on whether the law should apply equally to all citizens.  It was a complicated story and involved a lot of hurt feelings, but as part of the process the original law did eventually get enforced  – and then, ironically, it got rewritten to accommodate the new commercial activity.  My wife and I were NIMBYs, for sure, but we also initiated a countywide discussion of some significant zoning issues.

Maybe in some cases NIMBYism can help keep us honest.

— Loring Woodman
Wilson, WY

About Various Authors

Sometimes it takes a village.

You must be logged in to post a comment Login