About 5 years ago, when the idea was put forward to build a Mass Pike exit ramp in Stockbridge just north of Kampoosa Bog -a Massachusetts Area of Critical Environmental Concern- NIMBY did what all the environmental data available could not and shut the proposal down cold. Stockbridge did an assessment of every home within sight of the proposed exchange and found that something in excess of 80 homeowners would see a depreciation in property values ranging from 15% to a whopping 75%. That unified those who didn't value the calcareous basin fen and other rare habitats and endangered species at Kampoosa that highly with those who did, and as a result its proponents lost the political will to push the issue further.
In another remarkable example, a few years back the citizens of Ancram, in Columbia County NY, were facing the likelihood of a 79- acre gravel mine in the heart of the Oblong Valley, that gorgeous stretch of Rte 22 that is for many the heart of that community. The issue went to court, where for the first time in New York State, a judge declared that impact on community character should be a point of adjudication. New York State DEC is a complicated agency, charged both with the protection of rare species in one of its departments and promotion of mining in another.
Ecological objections, and there were many valid ones, were not sufficient to make the state reverse its preliminary approval of the project, but as a result of the hearings on community character impacts, DEC ultimately and unexpectedly decided not to approve the project. Ancram and Stockbridge are two very different communities, each with a different tax base and political outlook from the other. But both found powerful support for self-determination in developing qualitative and quantitative measures of the social and ecological impacts of potentially transformative development projects on their communities.
These impacts were no less significant the other, perfectly valid ecological objections, but using them accomplished what those arguments could not and produced a win for conservation in the bargain. All development decisions are about values - ecological, economic, and social. One can, and I would argue should, measure and place a value on the aesthetic impacts of development, just as on any other measurable impact.
Some of us will place a greater weight on one over the other, but labelling aesthetic objections out of hand as NIMBY discounts the real and measurable effects that many will experience from such development. In fact, as shown above, economic and social impacts have more weight and engage more community members than the ecological ones.