Phillips & Angley

Zoning boards are not always easy to work with

Finding and purchasing property for development may be a huge step forward for your project, but if the property is located in a city or municipality that is not friendly to new businesses or development, you may find yourself at the beginning of a long and frustrating venture. While many cities claim to welcome new growth, their planning and zoning agencies do not always put it into practice, or they simply do not have the staff to keep your plans moving forward.

Before investing money in land to develop for residential or commercial use, you may want to investigate the reputation of the city's various departments that you will be dealing with throughout the process.

Signs of slow progress

It may be as simple as asking other developers or builders about their experiences with the local zoning boards. Since this is one of the early stopping places in your project, a backlog here could delay your development for months or even years. The efficiency of a planning and zoning board will be no secret, but you will have to do your part by researching the history of development in the area. You may want to ask these and other questions:

  • Do the agencies of the municipality encourage or discourage growth?
  • Is the process of obtaining the necessary land use permits unreasonably expensive?
  • Are the agencies you will be dealing with understaffed?
  • Is there a backlog of requests for permits?
  • Are the offices well managed? Do those responsible for your permits know what they are doing?

Sometimes, you can get a first impression from the agency's website or by making a phone call for information. A website that no one maintains or that has no access to online forms and documents may be a sign of a department that does not receive funding or support from the local government. A frustrating phone call that yields no answers may indicate an office that is not well managed.

Practical matters

One common complaint from developers is that they often have to drag their requests from one department to another, and this means driving or walking from building to building to meet with officials from planning and zoning, utilities, public works, and other agencies whose approval you will need. If such agencies are scattered around the city, this could mean there is little or ineffective communication among these critical departments.

Dealing with planning and zoning agencies and others is an important part of your development project, and delays from these departments can mean costly delays to your project. With the assistance of a skilled attorney who has experience with development projects throughout Massachusetts, you may find relief from these frustrations and a strong advocate in your corner.

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