Strategic Opposition Part 3: you may not see development opponents coming

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(Editor’s Note: The Saint Report has explored the changing landscape of real estate development and evolution of land use politics. In this series, we look at strategic opposition to development and a growing industry of consultants who bring new strategies to the politics of planning)

By Saint Consulting Staff

Competitors engaging in strategic opposition are generally invisible to the public; their operations are private; their objectives are cloaked; and their consultants and operatives always attack from the high moral ground.

They never admit that they oppose the project because it means competition. Instead, they find a solid, community-based, politically correct, high moral ground on which to stand, tailored to the situation and the concerns in the area.

It would be useless to complain about traffic if there are no residential neighbors.  In such a case, the strategic opponent might suggest to a citizens’ group that they raise some of the following issues:

A.        Environmental concerns (extent of impervious surface; runoff into reservoirs, air pollution from auto exhaust; wetlands endangerment; on-site water recycling system and solar heat).

B.        Mitigation improvements to save the city money (traffic lights, street widening, interchange re-configuring, handicapped ramps; queuing lanes).

C.        Linkage fees to assuage the hurt feelings of neighbors (green space set-asides; building a park; contributing to the playground fund; donating land to the city).

D.        Construction practices (commitments to build with union contractors and subs, and all union labor; limited construction hours; neighborhood advisory and monitoring committee).

The strategic planner nearly always finds it easy to locate a citizens’ group opposed to a project, or else he creates one, using annoyed neighbors as the core.

Developers who do their homework can identify and neutralize neighborhood opposition early (before your competitor even knows you’re in town)

Developers who keep public officials informed and work to achieve a neighborhood consensus, will find it easier to avoid strategic opposition manipulation.

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