Manage Digital Opposition to Real Estate Development

This article originally appeared in In Business magazine.

by Adam Baugh

In my line of work with real estate and land-use entitlements, it’s not uncommon to engage with upset neighbors opposed to development. Whether it’s called NIMBY-ism (Not In My Backyard) or CAVErs (Citizens Against Virtually Everything), changing the status quo can certainly elicit strong emotions and intense anti-development sentiment. 

In days past, those opposing a zoning case might circulate a petition, wear matching shirts or buttons or bring signs to protest at city hall. Today’s opposition is much different and includes social media postings, digital meetups, activist websites, online trolling and harassment, e-petitions, video production and more. In a recent instance, I saw one individual create personal websites attacking local city councilmembers to shame them for a vote they had yet to take, for a case that had yet to even be filed. Essentially, it was a proverbial shot across the bow, warning that if they took such action, they would risk public ridicule, shame and scorn.

Nobody is immune to what an online vigilante might post about them or their project. There is simply no accountability for them and if their aim is to stir up opposition, it’s frankly very easy to do. Thus, in a digital world, how might one manage and respond to digital opposition to new development? Here are some tips that have worked well in other situations.

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