By Patrick Fox
President, The Saint consulting Group
As a Baltimore Sun opinion piece last month illustrates, all land use is political. When decisions are made by elected or appointed officials who can be and are influenced by the will of the people, it should come as no surprise to anyone that outcomes are political.
The American people understand that and are becoming increasing cynical about the process. 69% of Americans believe that the relationship between developers and elected officials makes the process by which land use decisions are made unfair (Source: The Saint Index 2009 http://tscg.biz/the-saint-index/executive-summary)
Developers donating campaign dollars to local officials is nothing new, but the stakes are higher. It continues to get harder to get projects approved. Residents, after years of watching Wal-Mart get beaten back by neighbors in high profile well publicized fights now believe you can fight progress. You can fight city hall and win, and the politics of development has been inexorably altered.
The politicians of old who fought for economic development because of the jobs and tax dollars that came with it have learned a painful lesson. Standing with the out of town developers against a room full of angry constituents is political suicide. It is far easier and much more politically advantageous to stand with the passionate, committed and angry neighbors against development.
Many developers are only beginning to understand that having a “good” project is not enough. Good projects die every day.
Patrick Fox is president of The Saint Consulting Group, email email@example.com, phone 781 749 7290