Ways to kill a real estate project – how opponents try to derail development, Part 2

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By Patrick Fox,
President, The Saint Consulting Group

nimbyThe Saint Consulting Group often does seminars for trade associations, client real estate departments and other groups. A popular topic is “How to Kill a Real Estate Project”. By learning the techniques that opposition groups utilize to derail a project, developers can learn how to avoid common mistakes and identify plan weaknesses.

In Part 1, we looked at strategic opposition topics and arguments such as traffic, schools, noise and dust and threats to the character of the community to derail projects. In Part 2 we look at wetlands, environmental issues, community and infrastructure concerns:

wetlandsG. Vital wetlands would be destroyed

1. The proponent has not adequately assessed the wetlands.

2. An independent species inventory should be conducted at the proponent’s expense.

3. No work should take place until a full summer inventory is taken and a full assessment made as to species.

4. Filling wetlands destroys natural habitat for animals and plants, endangering the ecosystem.

5. Replicating wetlands is not acceptable to the neighborhood even if the law allows it. The proponent should redesign or move the store.

6. Filling wetlands will cause flooding in the residential neighborhoods.

7. Dust and air pollution from the project will adversely impact the habitat.

8. A septic system will endanger the wetlands. The proponent should be required to install a force-fed system with a tight tank.

9. The proponent’s enormous parking lot will substantially increase the amount of impervious surface in the area, injuring the ecology.

H. The site is an environmental nightmare

1. The proponent should be required to have a full environmental inspection done at the site, and the results should be made public.
2. The city should hire an independent environmental firm at the proponent’s expense, to evaluate the site and report findings publicly.

3. The proponent or current owner must be required to do a full cleanup before any part of the permitting process takes place, or we lose our leverage.

4. The former site owner is in Chapter 11. We’ll never get the site cleaned up if we don’t require the proponent to do it in advance of granting building permits.

5. The proponent should be required to post a bond in twice the amount of the estimated cleanup costs and be given one year to do a complete cleanup.

6. The proponent must pay for citizen monitors to watch the cleanup, monitor progress, and report any discrepancies or disturbing findings.

7. All contaminated soil must be hauled off-site and out of town, and replaced with clean fill. No soil storage, burning, or other treatment should be allowed on site.

8. All construction or demolition debris must be removed from the site on a daily basis so as not serve as an attractive nuisance for children or pets.

9. At the end of each work day, all potentially dangerous conditions, equipment, or materials shall be repaired, removed from the site, or so secured and locked that curious children could not be injured.

10. Proponent shall provide at least one police detail officer at the site during nights and weekends during the entire construction period.

11. Proponent must be required to prepare and submit a comprehensive rodent control program before beginning any demolition, so as not to attract rats to the residential neighborhood.

12. The proponent must pay for soil, air, and water monitoring equipment to be in place and operating during the cleanup process.

13. The proponent must pay the cost of monitoring the aquifer and for continual testing of the town water supply, wells, reservoir, and drinking water at the home faucet.

14. The proponent must pay the cost of test wells, to be drilled periodically where and when the city’s consultant suggests, to discover and monitor any plume of pollution.

I. Environmental concerns need to be addressed

1. Proponent should be required to plant a tree for each one he cuts down in clearing the wooded site. Plantings can be in parks and schoolyards.

2. Storm water runoff must not drain into the ground water, or must be filtered and fitted with oil/chemical separators to avoid pollution from oil, gasoline, antifreeze, grease, road salt and other chemicals.

3. The proponent should be required to make public a list of all hazardous, flammable or toxic chemicals it plans to carry or store in the facility.

4. Sinks and drains must not carry chemical waste into the ground water.

5. Sinks in the butcher area must drain into a tight tank.

6. No photo processing or dry cleaning should be allowed on the site.

7. Floor drains in warehouse areas storing household chemicals and other toxins must drain into a tight tank.

8. If automotive supplies are to be sold, proponent should be required to include a motor oil recycling station and equipment in the building plans.

9. The proponent should be required to set aside substantial greenbelts and green islands to reduce the mass of his project and to reduce the area of bituminous impervious surface.

10. The proponent’s landscape and parking lot design are not environmentally friendly nor safe for pedestrians.

11. The proponent’s exit plan will cause backups, leading to needless air pollution from vehicle exhausts.

12. Proponent should be required to pay for air quality monitoring and sample analysis, and the results should be published in the newspaper on a weekly basis. The city should engage a consultant to extrapolate the impacts on air quality from the projected traffic volume, queuing, and idling (including vehicles in both the parking lot and loading area).

13. Proponent must be required to use hydro fluorocarbons (HFCs) in refrigeration units, and not be allowed to use hydrochrlorofluro-carbons (HCFCs) or any interim or so-called R-22 products.

J. Community concerns need to be addressed

1. Proponent should be required to make a linkage contribution equal to three percent of the project cost to the community.

2. Proponent should be required to post a $5 million bond to guarantee all traffic mitigation, linkage and other undertakings are completed.

3. Certain members of the permit-granting boards have conflicts of interest and should not be permitted to sit on this project.

4. The proponent should be required to make full disclosure of all ownership and financial arrangements respecting this property and project.

5. The proponent’s promises of jobs are unreliable unless we have a signed contract providing liquidated damages in the event of nonperformance. Proponent must also commit to using union contractors, sub-contractors, and all union labor, or at least to meeting union wages and conditions of employment for all construction trades.

6. The proponent’s promises of tax revenues are meaningless unless the proponent waives his right to file for abatements for the next ten years, in writing.

7. The store should be substantially reduced in size to address concerns of traffic, noise, and pollution. We don’t want or need a 30,000-item selection.

K. The Infrastructure cannot handle the burden

1. The sewer system is overburdened. Proponent should be required to construct a self-contained waste disposal system.

2. The town rubbish system is overburdened. Proponent must make his own arrangements for trash disposal.

3. The police department is under-staffed. Proponent should be required to engage four on-site private-duty officers during the construction period, and two officers at all peak store hours, to be designated as weekdays from 3 to 11 p.m. and Saturdays, all day.

4. The fire department is under-equipped. The proponent should donate a dozen self-contained oxygen units to the fire department as part of linkage and also because firefighters would need them in fighting a fire in a huge structure such as proponent wishes to build.

5. The proponent must design emergency ambulance and fire lanes to assure that they are kept clear of parked cars at all times.

6. The proponent should be required to drill a well to provide for all outside watering needs on site so as not to adversely impact the public water supply; and to install an on-site water recycling system.

7. There is no public transportation to the area. Proponent should be required to provide shuttle buses.

L. The proper procedures are not being followed.

1 The Planning Board should conduct a series of informational meetings before taking up the matter formally.

2. The Planning Board should not rule on the site plan before the matter goes before the zoning board.

3. The Zoning Board should not handle the matter at all; a special town meeting should be called on a matter of this importance.

4. The proponent must be required to show serious hardship, not just inconvenience.

5. The Mayor should place the question on the next election ballot.

6. The City Council should hire a consultant to make a survey of the residents to see if they favor rezoning this parcel.

7. The Selectmen should do their own traffic study, at the proponent’s expense.

Patrick Fox is president of The Saint Consulting Group, email fox@tscg.biz, phone 781 836-4163