NIMBY in Bloomington, Illinois

Felicia Martin

Community Service Leadership Seminar

Paper 2

 

NIMBY-Bloomington

 

NIMBY or Nimby is an acronym for Not In My Back Yard. The term is used negatively to describe opposition by residents to a proposal for a new development close to them. Opposing residents themselves are sometimes called Nimbies.  A NIMBY might agree that a community or a neighborhood needs a half-way house for convicts transitioning back to society, but doesn't want it placed too close to his or her own home.  In Bloomington, Nimbies objected to having a halfway home near a school. One parent was concerned about the safety of children who walk to and from Bloomington Junior High School and Bloomington High School. The woman said that the students will be forced to cross Locust Street during heavy traffic, with no crosswalks or traffic signals to ensure safe crossing, or walk within 10 feet of this group home's door.  This group home is located within a six-block radius of BJHS, BHS, Blooming Grove Academy, Holy Trinity Junior High School, Illinois Wesleyan University, the old junior high where kids go for dance and violin lessons, and the Cultural District.

 

As far as neighborhood development in Bloomington Illinois, NIMBY members have objected to the Habitat for Humanity South Hill Project.  According to an April 1999 article in the Pantagraph, a west-side Bloomington neighborhood was wary of plans to create a Habitat for Humanity subdivision, but attorney Frank Miles, a co-founder of Habitat in the Twin Cities, took a step to answer concerns.  At the city's Planning Commission, 11 people, most from Low, Mason, Oak, Springfield and Bissell streets at South Hill, formally objected to creating the 14-home Founders Square subdivision at the end of Mason Street. Almost that many in the audience who did not speak were equally opposed.  Residents crammed the building of the Bloomington Police station to voice their concerns about the proposed Habitat for Humanity housing project.  Some people seemed opposed to the project not so much because it would affect the quality of life in the neighborhood, but because they resented the fact that Habitat families are able to purchase a $70,000-value home for $35,000 with an interest-free loan.  When the discussion got down to the issues, most residents indicated that they were worried about the increased traffic and three to five years of construction noise at what is now a quiet and safe neighborhood.

Crime isn't the only issue raised about Founders Square.  There is one home now in the 3-acre area. The plan would transform a tranquil green area that existing residents would want as a park into a bustling block with traffic and possibly drainage problems, objectors said.  South Oak Street resident Scott Southerland told the commission "it was a mistake not to talk to the people in the neighborhood" before the meeting. Commission members responded that a neighborhood canvass was not a city government obligation but that notices were sent. 

After almost two hours of discussion, Miles agreed to take a closer look at some of the neighbors' recommendations, which included lowering the number of houses from 13 to six, prohibiting parking on the cul-de-sac, investigating whether additional property can be purchased to allow access to Springfield Road and thus diminish traffic, determine if utilities can be placed in the back of homes instead of the front, putting sidewalks on both sides of the street instead of one, and adding garages to the new homes. During the process, the plan had called for each home to have space to park two cars, but no garages.  Miles won the commission's approval to put the project on hold. Then, he told the residents that Habitat would meet with all of them at a time and place of their convenience. He assured them that a central concern, high crime, would not be an issue if the plan goes forward. Later on, habitat withdrew the plan and decided not to build there.

 

Habitat Executive Director Tom Ginder added that Habitat families, all of whom he knows, "are great people just like you and me." The Planning Commission did voice approval of a second Habitat neighborhood, the eight-lot Fellowship Place next to Habitat's Wojahn Street development, and it moved on to the City Council.  Eventually, the development was approved and built.

 

The follow up of this project was in another Pantagraph article in May of 1999. It stated: Habitat For Humanity of McLean County might in the future work with the public before its proposals get to the hearings stage at Bloomington City Hall, according to a Habitat leader.  In the wake of heated opposition and demands for plan changes that increased costs, Habitat withdrew its plan for the Founder's Square subdivision in Bloomington's South Hill neighborhood and trying to learn from the experience.  Since then, it was decided to move forward with the project. On August 29, 2009 ISU\IWU Habitat had groundbreaking for the 15th and 16th ISU\IWU Collegiate homes near the corner of Lumber and W. Grove Street in Bloomington. These homes were the first LEED-certified homes in McLean County. Link to map:

 

 

Habitat uses volunteer labor to construct homes and then sells to low-income families. According to Miles, the sales may be for $35,000 but the value of the house is usually double that.  The agency has built 50 homes in the Twin Cities in 10 years but needs new land to continue building.  Habitat builds low-cost housing with the use of volunteer work. Habitat families work on the houses and are screened through a selection process. It has built 50 houses in Bloomington in 10 years.

 

 

 

Source:

 

            1)         http://lilt.ilstu.edu/habitat/new/news.htm

            2)         Lexus Nexus

            3)         Steve Arney – Bloomington Pantagraph Article, April 1999

            4)         Randy Gleason – Bloomington Pantagraph Article, May 1999

            5)         highbeamresearch.com