Yesterday morning on the McNees Minute on ABC 27, I briefly discussed the role local public officials – such as your municipality’s council members, commissioners or supervisors – have in the development and redevelopment processes for our communities.  They play a major role in ensuring our land is developed in a smart, safe and efficient manner that provides for all the needs of a community.  I stressed the importance of electing public officials who are willing to trust municipal staff and other consultants.  In addition, I touched on why it is important to elect public officials who are willing and able to collaborate with developers and property owners.  Finally, I offered that it is equally important for developers and property owners to engage land use professionals who also are collaborative and able to work with elected public officials and municipal staff.  Having forward thinking, collaborative people in each of those roles is vitally important to the future development and redevelopment of our communities.

There are many posts on this blog that discuss or analyze the situation where a municipal ordinance has become antiquated.  We’ve discussed situations where ordinances just haven’t considered a new use or a new and better development process.  Similarly, if you take a drive around your community, I’m nearly certain you will find situations where either (a) a property is no longer used, is an eyesore, or was developed in a manner that is inconsistent with the current needs of your community or (b) development has not yet occurred but will happen sometime soon.  As our population and needs grow and change, so too must the individuals who lead our development and redevelopment efforts.  Therefore, it is important for residents (voters) to understand the interplay between public officials, their staff and consultants, developers, and their consultants.

Public officials are responsible for many things, including enacting land use ordinances and approving or denying plans that permit or restrict development and redevelopment of land.  Often, these are matters with which they have little or no prior experience or knowledge.  It is not a position to envy.  Of course, the pay is meager, so most public officials must also have day jobs.  Few public officials have careers as civil engineers or city planners.  Few are developers and fewer still are land use attorneys.  As a result, public officials rely on staff and other consultants for that expertise.  Depending on the size of the municipality, it could employ managers, zoning and codes officers, planners, and engineers.  It might engage third parties as consultants in some of those roles and, in addition, will engage a solicitor.  These professionals provide elected officials with the information and analysis needed to make informed decisions.

Similarly, developers and property owners often engage professionals, such as civil engineers, architects, planners, and land use attorneys to help bring their plans to fruition.  These professionals are hired to help a developer or property owner design a plan for development, comply with ordinances, seek relief from ordinances when necessary, and navigate the land use approvals process.  Therefore, it is important for developers and property owners to engage land use professionals who also are collaborative and able to work with municipal staff and elected public officials.  When the system is working at its best, local government, developers and property owners collaborate on a project to ensure the best development or redevelopment of the land.

If you have any land use questions or want more information on the collaborative approach we take, please do not hesitate to contact us.