Nov 29, 2006

NIMBY nonsense

Lileks is bemused by the problems a local drive-in restaurant chain encounters in trying to open up a new store in Minneapolis.
Keep in mind that this is not a sylvan enclave in which the soft sound of butterfly wings can be heard at high noon. It’s Central and 19th. Anyone who moves into a neighborhood next to a street called CENTRAL ought to expect a certain amount of urban grit, no? Surely a business that hires people and dispenses hot savory meat-divots ought to be a good thing, especially since it’s not a McDonald’s, which as we know sends armies of red-and-yellow clowns into the Amazon to chop down rain forests.
I know a thing or two about zoning disputes, having spent a previous life covering municipal politics in Bergen County, NJ. Henry Kissinger's aphorism about academic politics applies here in spades: The smaller the stakes, the more vicious the fight.

Residents of one blue-collar suburb spent years fighting Pizza Hut, which wanted to build a restaurant along the town's main drag. Bear in mind that the main drag was accessible to three major highways. The road ran through several towns and featured a Home Depot, several supermarkets, car washes, strip malls, gas stations, a 7-11, a Taco Bell, a Burger King, a KFC and probably a couple of other fast food restaurants as well. But a Pizza Hut. Well that's going too far.

An oft-stated objection, which I heard both in this town and a neighboring town engaged in a fight against an office complex, was and I quote: "The last thing we need is for __________ to become another Hoboken." The town, you see, consisted of people who left the urban row houses of Hoboken sometime after the Sinatras did, when the place started going downhill. Had they stayed long enough to reap the benefits of gentrification, they could have afforded to move to a town whose zoning code prohibited fast food restaurants altogether.

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