Looking at this picture, what do you see?
You may see a typical suburb. Or a small town in flyover country. Both answers would be correct!
However, when we look at the picture we see:
- The commuting patterns that are impacted by zoning decisions
- The small business that is trying to get a building permit to expand
- The school board that is wrestling with rising student populations and the need to adjust enrollment boundaries
- The developer that’s facing an angry neighborhood because her project is locating where the city’s decades old comprehensive plan says it should be built
- The need for a balance between housing and jobs, as well as housing diversity and affordability
- A city that is struggling with the cost of services and the need to grow and diversify it’s economy
- The importance of primary sector jobs, as well as sales tax generating commercial/retail business
Why do we see all that?
We’re experts at understanding the importance of economic development and the complexity of land use.
That’s why we’re able to help the public and private sectors solve their challenges and capitalize on their opportunities.
Whether you are a community, economic development organization, real estate developer or expanding business, our land use and economic development expertise can add significant value to your projects. Here’s an example of value we’re adding to a project by changing the land use and zoning.
On a 6-1 vote Wednesday night, the Auburn Planning Commission recommended the City Council approve a comprehensive plan map amendment and rezone for 1.89 acres that our firm has been pushing through the City’s annual docket cycle on behalf of a client. If approved by the City Council, the resulting zoning would increase the density of the site by as many as 29 additional housing units.
“This project is a perfect example of how our company can help land owners and developers add value to their properties and projects,” said David Toyer, founder of Toyer Strategic Consulting. “With land supply inside urban growth areas becoming more constrained, our experience changing zoning and permitted uses can add significant benefits clients looking to achieve a higher and better use.”
In another example earlier this year Toyer Strategic successfully amended the matrix of permitted uses in the City of Pacific, Washington to allow a client to move forward an industrial warehousing in an office park zone – a obvious win for the project developer, but also a key win for a city which hadn’t seen much new development in that zone.
Toyer Strategic has filed a land use code amendment in the City of Lake Stevens, seeking adoption of a model homes ordinance similar to those used in other Snohomish County jurisdictions.
Model homes ordinances have been used by jurisdictions to replace the act of granting temporary use permits, establishing clear standards precedent to builders being eligible to seek building permits for the construction of model homes prior to final plat approval.
“We believe strongly that adoption of a model homes ordinance will clarify the requirements and process for approval of model homes in Lake Stevens, which is a benefit to the city, builders and citizens trying to understand local land use processes,” said David Toyer, owner of Toyer Strategic Consulting.
Filing the proposed code amendment under LSMC 14.16C.075 was just the first step in a lengthy review process. Staff must forward the proposal to the City Council who will determine whether or not the amendment should be further considered by staff and the Planning Commission.
Companies, especially those in real estate development, have developed comprehensive due diligence/feasibility processes to determine if a project is a go or no-go.
But even the best due diligence/feasibility processes we’ve seen lack an understanding of the ‘political’ elements impacting a project, which often results in one of two scenarios:
1. The company passes on a project in response to a perceived regulatory roadblock, which if investigated further might be easily navigated, or
2. The company proceeds with a project only to run into an ‘unexpected’ political change that threatens the entitlements they seek (e.g. moratoriums, more stringent regulations, emergency ordinances, etc.).
We’ve got solutions and here’s how we help:
- Political & Regulatory Risk Assessments – We specialize in understanding local and state regulatory systems and we excel at researching local regulatory trends, past project results, changing political winds (example: is the no-growth neighborhood group running candidates to flip the local council/board?). We can help your company assess the political and regulatory risks prior to your investment.
- Reverse Engineering of Regulatory Roadblocks – Have you ever passed on a project because you ran into a single regulatory limitation that didn’t fit the project (e.g. allowed % of lot coverage was too low for your home designs)? We help companies assess regulatory roadblocks and design strategies that can change the red flag your seeing into a green light.
- Maximizing the Project’s Value – What if you could get a little more density? Shorten your approval by a few weeks? Or reduce some of your project’s conditions? We can help with that. We understand the politics of negotiation, as well as the opportunities to speed up local regulatory processes, and we can assist you in maximizing your next project’s value.
- Proactive Project Mine-Clearing – Developing relationships, seeking code interpretations, securing code amendments – are all efforts we can manage on your behalf prior to your next project moving forward.
- Community Outreach – There’s nothing worse than thinking everything is going great only to go to hearing and have dozens of neighbors show up in opposition. We are experienced at communicating with neighborhoods and adjacent landowners, and we can help your company manage long-term project risk by utilizing the opportunity to address concerns early in the process.
Want to learn more about how we can help your projects? Contact us.
The Seattle Times reports this week that housing prices in King County (Seattle) have increased by more than $100,000 in a year for the first time, fueled in part by the growth of major technology companies expanding and locating in the Pacific NW.
Richard Florida, perhaps the most popular urban studies theorist, argues that this is a result of successful tech based economic development, but it creates a call to action for those communities and companies fueling the economic growth.
In a lengthy article for a June edition of MIT’s Technology Review, Florida opines:
“High-tech companies should—out of self-interest, if for no other reason—embrace a shift to a kind of urbanism that allows many more people, especially blue-collar and service workers, to share in the gains of urban development. The superstar cities they’ve helped create cannot survive when nurses, EMTs, teachers, police officers, and other service providers can no longer afford to live in them.
Here’s how they can do it. First, they can work with cities to help build more housing, which would reduce housing prices. They can support efforts to liberalize outdated zoning and building codes to enable more housing construction, and invest in the development of more affordable housing for service and blue-collar workers.” Read his full article here.
We agree that housing is a major economic development (and cultural issue), especially in rural areas. However, as we recently wrote, there is a National Housing Problem and its impacting rural areas as much as major metros.