Combating NIMBY groups

By |  November 1, 2018

Hypocrisy. Behavior that contradicts what one claims to believe or feel.

My mind drifted toward this notion as a conversation with Memphis Stone & Gravel Co.’s Alan Parks shifted to the Not in My Backyard (NIMBY) groups that aggregate producers sometimes find themselves combating. Parks took me on a tour earlier this year of Memphis Stone & Gravel sites, offering visits to the company’s DeSoto Plant in Southaven, Mississippi, as well as two former mine properties that are successfully being reclaimed.

Fortunately for Memphis Stone & Gravel, the road to get the DeSoto Plant permitted was not as rocky as it was for some other company sites. The DeSoto Plant was fully permitted in about a year. But, as Parks reminded me, producers can be forced to jump through hoops for a decade or longer to get a site up and running. And in some cases, it’s the minority voice that delays or, ultimately, prevails in keeping producers out of the community.

“It’s not fair that you make a small group happy at the expense of everybody else,” says Parks, Memphis Stone & Gravel vice president.

NIMBY groups don’t make – let alone care about – a few key considerations that should be made in the process. Surely, these people want nice roads. Well, these roads must be paid for.

But these groups are hell-bent on not having a local source. So their communities are going to pay a premium to have materials transported into the market.

NIMBY groups may not care about these factors, but local planning boards looking to keep costs down ought to. These people can be persuaded.

Besides, wanting nice roads without sourcing material locally is somewhat hypocritical.

“It’s wishful thinking that you’ll get it somewhere else,” Parks says. “But that cost may go up 50 to 100 percent.”

Producers try to convey these costs to decision makers, but it only takes a few objectors to derail a project. Still, producers should utilize their stakeholders in the permitting process to raise their collective voice.

Producers must do a better job of explaining how not having that local operation will detrimentally affect the community. There are good, sound arguments to be made – arguments like jobs, boosted economies and the carbon footprint.

“We have to get the people affected by the operation more engaged,” says Parks. “[That’s] those who work there – the truck drivers, the contractors who depend on that location.”

Some planning boards are already realizing the effects of sourcing materials out of market. These experiences are starting to sway some decision makers.

“They’re starting to experience some pain because of the shortages of aggregate,” Parks says. “They’re having to import it from farther away, and it’s increasing their costs.”

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