Latest Victim of the State–Your Dog

It used to be that mostly Landfill operations and chemical plants were subject to the so-called NIMBY (which is short for “not in my backyard”) syndrome. Homeowners and even renters have fought siting of such facilities for decades–making it nearly impossible to open valuable businesses no matter how well-designed and unobtrusive the facilities were.

But NIMBY is now used to attack a wide range of private property uses. And some of the latest victims are not even human. Pet hotels and doggie daycare centers are increasingly relegated to industrial parks and rural areas, even in cities where dog owners need a place close to home or work for their pets to stay and play.

Sure, such facilities can pose issues for neighbors; but neighbors should not be able to preempt any business because it “might” annoy them. And the concerns of some neighbors should not trump all the rights of others–be they businesses or consumers of such businesses. For example, in one community, a resident complained about dog walkers from the nearby doggie day care. This resident was unhappy when the leashed dogs happened to bark. But don’t the dog walkers have rights to be on public streets? And what about the neighbors who paid for those services? Don’t they have rights? Or are we going to start banning dog walking?

Rather than preempting such businesses altogether, communities should work to balance rights of everyone. When problems arise, then neighbors should have opportunities to address verified public nuisances or trespasses. But preempting businesses outright is extreme and unfair. Many of these facilities are great neighbors that employ people in the community and provide solutions for many consumers. And many are good samaritans, such as Dogtopia, which hosts annual charities to help police K-9 units around the nation.

Such solutions have been been found for large regional landfills, which certainly are a bigger challenge than doggie daycare centers. Landfill aromas are controlled and sites hidden behind trees. In Virginia, the landfill in Charles City County is well hidden behind woods. When I got lost looking for it, I had to ask nearby residents for directions to the entrance. I had a hard time finding someone who could provide directions because few even knew the landfill was there! Yet, the facility provides an important social service–ensuring safe waste disposal and bringing income to the community.

Doggie daycare facilities should be even easier. Yet places like Hoboken bar them from certain areas of the city (probably because of politically powerful and wealthier residents). In Boston, the city initially permitted one doggie hotel and then pulled back because neighbors started to complain. Now the owner of Fenway Bark has to spend more time and money for a project that could be derailed by a group of loud and overbearing residents.

This issue highlights the serious pitfalls with many zoning laws. They eliminate a host of valuable activities. Technically, lemonade stands are not legal in many places, nor are farm stands in front of homes, nor can people legally have doggie daycares in the homes–not even for just a couple dogs a day. NIMBYism–powered by zoning regulations–has impeded affordable housing developments, golf courses, energy projects, and more.

Some people may never be happy with changes in their neighborhoods. But that has always been the case. If my neighbors put pink flamingos on their lawns, I might not like it, but it’s their right. People who can’t handle that should buy land around their homes or buy into into voluntary, restrictive, private home-owner associations.