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3 Arguments People Make To Disparage The Development Next Door

How citizens argue against development in their neighborhood and what to do about it

As a real estate developer meetings with city staff and citizens can be scary. A lot rides on these meetings. Years of planning could be on the line. Don’t misunderstand me, these meetings determine if your project will happen or not.

I’ve been studying the minutes in my city, I’ve participated in plenty of these meetings (both as a board member and as a developer) and I’ve noticed 3 common patterns.

“There won’t be enough parking”

People are wary of change

But business owners are afraid of change. They spend all their time attempting to control every detail of their business to create value and build their business.

If you threaten their parking, lookout. If there’s less parking it automatically means (in their eyes) they’ll lose customers.

Eliminating or reduction of parking spots puts a higher demand on existing spots.

This is good for the city. Let’s make the most out of our existing lots and garages before we build more. In most cities parking doesn’t directly generate revenue.

Answer the question

To help quell community concerns, do your own study of parking. Where will you instruct your tenants and their guests to park? How is that parking currently being used? What percent is the lot utilized now? How many spots do you estimate needing? How does that impact utilization?

When you have some data to indicate that your project will only use up a certain percentage of an underutilized lot, your on your way to convincing the city that this is the right thing to do.

“Our Business District Doesn’t Need Apartments”

Old School

The idea that you put all of your businesses in one place and houses in another is old school. It’s rooted in traditional zoning when cities required building used to determine their location.

We used to need this zoning. It was a way to protect urban citizens from living in the shadow of a papermill spewing pollution into the air and the water.

Now that our cities are no longer industrial (at least in the US) and there are other agencies in place to mitigate the risks from pollution, our local building and zoning rules don’t need to do that.

Retail and rooftops are symbiotic

The interaction between different groups, people, and businesses in a close physical association is part of the benefit of density. Traditionally speaking, human settlements always followed this mixed-use pattern.

Walking used to be the only way to get around, so out of necessity, the closer things were the better. Obviously, the invention of the plane, train, and the automobile changed that dynamic but this principle still remains true.

Don’t you want your customers closer to your business?

“Project Doesn’t Fit The Neighborhood”

The killer

Residents argue that the new project doesn’t fit the neighborhood.

Even if the project is completely legal and complies with existing code, you’ll still have people say it doesn’t fit. Those who vote against will say something like,

“I cannot support something that property and small business owners are telling me they don’t like…”

Then the well-intentioned governing body will say something like,

“…we hear the concerns of our citizens and will put together a committee to review and make recommendations…”

Hopefully, you did your homework

This is the most subjective of all 3 common arguments.

If you’re not matching the pattern language of the neighborhood and you’re dropping in a modern spaceship among a neighborhood of bungalows, then the community is right. You don't fit.

The best way to determine if the project fits is to do your homework. Do you have letters from your true neighbors supporting the project? Do you have letters from members of the committee saying that the project does indeed fit?

A picture is worth a thousand words. Do you have renderings that show how your project fits?

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