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Inside Self-Storage Magazine 07/2004: Not in My Back Yard (NIMBY)

July 1, 2004

5 Min Read
Inside Self-Storage Magazine 07/2004: Not in My Back Yard (NIMBY)

Not in My Back Yard (NIMBY)

By Fred Grauer

How many times have you heard the comment, Boy, I hope theydont put that thing in my neighborhood? Car washes, storage facilities, pet crematoriums, C-stores andgas stations seem to get a bad rap, along with adult book stores and used carlots. The question is, is it deserved or not?

I dont know a lot about some of these businesses, but I dohave a good working knowledge of business in general, as well as pretty decentcommon sense. I believe the thing that made this country so terrificandcontinues to beckon so many to our shoresis the chance to create so much outof so little. The United States is the world leader in small business. Ourfinancial strength and complete freedom to be what we can be, isunequalled.

Look around your neighborhood and you will see hundreds ofentrepreneurs investing in their communities, providing opportunities, goods andservices from which we all benefit. So with all this bustling of activity andacknowledgement, why is it people say not in my back yard? I contend thissentiment is a result of a few things. First, most of these businesses areseemingly less sophisticated, less expensive to start, and provide work for manyentry-level employees. Second, most are owned and managed by entrepreneurs withvarying levels of refinement. Finally, many of the sites chosen for thesebusiness are in areas where real estate values are lowerthey dont attractthose businesses you do wantin your back yard.

If this is accurate, we need to enable our buddingentrepreneurs and existing business owners to further invest, grow and providethe diversity that refreshes and stimulates our communities and economy. Areally simple solution that would open the flood gates and kindle investmentwould be to modify the process of site approval. Tear down the doors, eliminatezoning and planning boards, and let the strong survive! But then I guarantee notin my back yard would be replaced by something far more unpleasant. So then,where do we start?

Instruct the Masses

Education is the foundation of successful business. Therefore,before we begin, we must learn to educate our citizens on the worthiness of ourenterprises. In the car-wash business, lack of stepping up to the plateworking with neighborhood groups, city representatives and other professionalsspellsinstant disaster. Recently, I was privileged to watch our government processfirst-hand.

The planning-board meeting I attended was supposed to be aslam dunk. (By the way, if you ever are told that, be prepared for the worst.There is no such thing as a slam dunk when it comes to public process.) Allappeared to be normalanother dead giveaway that trouble was brewing. As themeeting opened and everyone had an opportunity to testify, it soon becameapparent that not enough time was spent getting all constituents comfortablewith the coming of a first-class car wash. The result? Years of planning and agreat deal of cost got tabled rather than passed. The good news is the owner hasanother shot at convincing the public a firstrate car wash is good for theneighborhood.

What should have been done? It appeared all the preparationswere made properly, and it should have been a done deal. The issues that turnedthe tables against the owner were:

  • The effect on adjacent residential property values.

  • The sites potential for acting as a gathering place for juveniles.

  • The perception the site could have been used for a more acceptable business.

  • Safety.

  • The belief the building would be a blight on the scenic attributes of the neighborhood.

All these objections are valid, but only because we missedsome important preselling and educational opportunities. And most important,these perceptions were only subjective opinion.

Business success is based on facts. In our case, had therebeen a clear understanding of the issues, a factual case could have beenpresented. Realtors, chambers of commerce, appraisers, and public agencies suchas the police and fire departments all need to be polled and, in most cases,make accurate factual presentations regarding safety. Economic justificationshould never be placed in the hands of citizens or process boards. It is anissue for the investor and his stakeholders.

For those of us looking to place a car-wash, self-storage orother similar business into a community, remember this: Unless you are a doctor,banker, lawyer, insurance company or some other perceived non-threat to acommunity, your offer will most likely cause contention. Being forewarned is part of the success formula.

Now you know what you have to do: You have to educate,demonstrate and participate; and when youve done it once, do it again. You mustinterview your neighbors. They need to know you dont have two heads, you care aboutthem, and you are willing to be a positive and active participant in theircommunities. All our community leaders and those responsible for the safety andwelfare of our towns want to know is you will bring and create value. In a carwash, you will not only use and improve a site, you will provide employment, taxrevenues and a safe place to wash vehicles, as well as benefit the environment.

Lets hope that if we do our job correctly, the term NIMBYwill vanish from our vocabulary, our wonderful country will remain anentrepreneurs Mecca, and we will welcome these great businesses in our backyards with pride and enthusiasm.

Fred Grauer is thevice president, distributor network, for MarkVII Equipment LLC, a carwashequipment manufacturer in Arvada, Colo. He has made a life-long career of designing, selling, buildingand operating car washes. He can be reached at [email protected].

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