April 10, 2007
Understand community, developers told
National survey shows Canadians anti-development
Developers need to be made aware of the political climate in perspective communities to avoid opposition from “Not in my backyard” (NIMBY) organizations, according to a national survey by the Saint Consulting Group.
Over 70 per cent of Canadians are saying no to development in their neighbourhoods, making it more difficult to be a developer, adds Saint Consulting president Patrick Fox.
The attitudes are directed at big projects such as casinos, landfills and power plants. Casinos ranked the highest among developments opposed at 83 per cent, while landfills, aggregate quarries, Wal-Marts and power plants rounded out the top five.
Single family homes, hospitals and grocery stores faced under 25 per cent opposition from constituents.
“The backroom deals that are cut with the mayor are dead, because he or she isn’t going to vote in opposition to two or three hundred angry constituents,” Fox told Daily Commercial News.
Canadians support development, but not in their communities. Three quarters of those surveyed say their communities are fine the way they are or overdeveloped.
“Developers need to get out there early. They have to do outreach, and they’ve got to try and invest people of the community in these projects,” added Fox. “You just can’t announce these things anymore and say it’s a good project.”
Saint Consulting advocates developers perform their due diligence in financial and demographic processes. But, Fox adds too many developers are ignoring political due diligence.
“Developers need to figure out if it is politically feasible to do their projects, or if it is a complete waste of time,” said Fox.
Toronto Construction Association (TCA) president John Mollenhauer echoed Fox’s suggestion that developers be aware of the political climate of communities.
“It’s in a developer’s best interest to understand the climate in the community in terms of what they are likely to approve,” he said.
However, Mollenhauer added it is easier said than done when developers continually see aberrations occur that would have never had happened six months earlier.
“Honestly, it’s nothing new,” added Mollenhauer. “We will be having this same discussion in 20 years, 40 years and even 140 years.”
And it’s not just the developers who must be aware of the political climate. Contractors must also understand what is happening in those communities.
Ontario General Contractors’ Association (OGCA) president Clive Thurston said it is important for contractors to be aware in order to manage their public relations within a community.
“We need to be sensitive to that and we need to plan and prepare for those sorts of things,” he said. “It’s just good planning.”
Another problem facing developers is the “tremendous” cynicism from the public.
About 60 per cent of Canadians think the relationship between elected officials and developers makes development unfair, an unsurprising number to Fox.
Local officials have to be careful about development issues since 80 per cent of Canadians say a local candidate’s position on development is important when they decide who they vote for.
“In the end, it is all about the fear of change and protecting the constituents’ greatest investment — the value of their home,” concluded Fox.
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