Thursday, October 19, 2006

Do we need to worry about keeping developers happy?

"Yes" is not always the correct answer.

Developers are interested in building. The only answer that they want to hear when seeking planning approvals and building permits is "yes". Any other answer is, from their perspective, the wrong answer.Very often the community is best served by an answer other than "yes". Often the answer is simply "no". The proposal does not conform to the City's plan. The proposal is simply a bad proposal. Sometimes the answer is "not now". The proposal is premature because the infrastructure is not available to support the proposal or the proposal cannot be absorbed in the market without significant negative impact on the market. The proposed development may be too far from existing sewers or roads. The proposed development may add too much space to an already saturated market. The answer may be "not this design". The proposal may be too big or too poorly configured for the site or generate traffic or other problems. Developers are not happy with any of these answers.What are the consequences of developer's being unhappy?

Not all development is helpful.

This community has, for too long, equated progress with building. The difficulty with this equation is that not all development is a good thing. The community cannot grow and prosper without development, but not all development contributes to the prosperity of the community. Planning is how the community guides its growth and distinguishes between developments that are good for the community and those that are not. Left up to the developers, the community’s growth would not follow the plan. Left up to the developer, the community’s growth would be plagued with sprawl and excessive building as well as with a deteriorating downtown and declining older neighborhoods.

Guiding a growing community is tricky. Growth is a luxury that, if used well, can benefit all parts of the City. If left to the developers it will be squandered in the most profitable locations leaving the older parts of the City to deteriorate. Downtown can thrive and older neighborhoods can be revitalized if we carefully manage the growth. However, this is not the path of least resistance for the developers. Developers are prone to excessive growth, which should be curtailed, and are prone to sprawl, which needs to be redirected back to the older parts of the City.

The community should manage its growth in a way that is beneficial to the community as a whole. The community should not succumb to the pressures to make the developers happy.

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