We are not ashamed to admit that we LOVED Top Gun: Maverick (no spoilers, we promise). It’s been almost 30 years since Maverick and Iceman squared off in Top Gun. “You like to work alone,” Iceman accused Maverick. Yet, ninety minutes later, focused on a common goal, Maverick and Iceman teamed up to save the world. “You can be my wingman anytime,” the result of Maverick and Iceman’s collaboration.

While elected officials may not be saving the world from Mig-29s (or 5th Generation Fighters), they play a vital role in creating the envisioned growth of their communities. In many communities, the goal is controlled and collaborative development. As land use attorneys, we are fortunate to be part of that collaboration and, therefore, want to offer our top five ways to encourage controlled and collaborative development. This is the first post in a five-part series. First up, early collaboration between the stakeholders.

When it comes to land use, it is easy to think of the relationship between elected officials, developers, and members of the community as an adversarial one. But it does not have to be if you do as Maverick and Iceman did. We don’t mean that you should play volleyball together. But we do ask that you abandon the adversarial mindset and focus on creating a common goal with all the stakeholders. To do this, first acknowledge that most elected officials, and some municipal staff members, come from backgrounds not associated with community planning or development. With that in mind, collaborate with your staff, third-party consultants, residents, and local developers to identify new ideas and concepts to achieve your desired level of controlled growth.

Collaboration does not stop within the confines of municipal officials and staff. Indeed, it can be beneficial to collaborate with developers, business owners, and land use professionals. Because every professional brings something different to the table, these professionals can provide diverse ideas and ways for your municipality to look at a project or area planned for development. Early collaboration between municipalities and land use professionals allows for each stakeholder to identify and express their concerns, so that the other stakeholders can address them. This also leads to a more efficient use of time and resources, and results in a better quality project while avoiding the costs associated with litigating an on-going dispute.

Equally as important is collaborating with the members of your community. Besides the basic purpose of providing for the health, safety, and welfare of the community, land use ordinances must also consider job creation, providing a tax base, providing housing, providing for all permitted uses, and providing “things to do,” all while not overtaxing municipal resources. Early collaboration with residents helps strike a balance between potential negative effects on the nearest neighbors with the positive gains anticipated for the rest of the residents in your municipality. Additionally, land use professionals often take collaborative steps to gather input from the community. Collaborating with residents can result in fewer surprise items at municipal meetings, since the residents will have already had their concerns addressed.

Early and regular collaboration with the other stakeholders can also lead to stronger relationships between the stakeholders. Which can further incentivize additional controlled and collaborative growth. You may have missed your chance to fly alongside Maverick and star in Top Gun: Maverick. But it’s never too late to find a new wingman.

If you have any questions about the collaborative methods we use, or any other land use questions, please contact one of our members of the McNees Wallace and Nurick Land Use Group for assistance.