Posted by ray@lcorn on August 03, 2002 at 10:48:08:
I served for 12 years on my local planning commission, and on the Board of Directors of our state’s planning association. I got involved with community planning years ago because I found out that these were the folks that made the rules I had to lay by as a builder/developer/investor. You’re finding out the same thing.
It sounds like you’re into some old fashioned horse trading with a common sense type of planner. Though what he is doing may not be exactly by the book, he’s likely looking at his actions as the ends justifying the means.
You have a couple of choices. You can continue to play the game his way and get the park turned around one space at a time. The alternative is to get a copy of the zoning ordinance and see exactly what the standards are. That’s usually my first move when acquiring a park. I like to know what the rules are before starting the game.
Depending on what is on the ordinance, you may find that the planner is overstepping his bounds. I doubt seriously that the code would allow him to selectively require improvements on one space to get approval for another. But the code requirements may even be more restrictive, requiring the compliance for the entire park before any new permits are granted.
So before you get too frisky about quoting code back to him, remember the reality of what you’re dealing with. Picking a fight with the guy that holds approval power is usually not a good idea, especially if he can be worked with, and it sounds like he can.
My approach would be to have a meeting on site with the planner, a copy of the code, a plat sheet of your park, and talk about a realistic plan to bring the park into compliance with the ordinance. Often there is a big difference in “cleaned up” and “compliance.” The two of you should be able to walk around the place and come up with a reasonable plan to clean the place up, and he needs to know you’re committed to doing that. If you will make a good faith effort to develop and implement the plan, and the planner knows that you are in the deal for the long haul, then he can probably loosen the reins on you enough to get the cash flow up a little quicker.
It sounds like you’ve got a guy you can work with. I can tell you that it could be a whole lot worse. Try the approach and let me know what happens.