Real estate developers often need to do more than simply buy acres of land before starting on their new project. In most situations they need to follow local zoning ordinances or get a variance as well as get various entitlements or approvals before they can begin construction. But what happens when the developer has purchased the land and developed a plan only to find themselves in a dispute with the local authorities over whether or not the project can move forward?
In a recent case, a developer who was set to move forward with a proposed ranch community that would include 5,400 homes, recreational areas, two golf courses and open space for more than 3,000 acres found themselves in a legal battle with local authorities. The developer got approval recommendation from the county’s professional staff. Even the local Planning and Zoning Commission gave the project the go-ahead. But when it came to the final steps, the County Commission voted down the project.
What types of legal remedies are available in this situation?
Ideally, negotiations can lead to an acceptable compromise. Unfortunately this does not always work. In some situations, like the example discussed above, the only answer is litigation. If successful, the suit can result in approval to move forward with the project and monetary damages. The developer in this case has requested $20 million in damages.
But these cases can take time. This one began four years ago and, due to various extenuating circumstances, has yet to reach a resolution. The most recent movement involves a request for a change in venue, or the location, of the trial if it were to go to court. The developer has argued that if it stayed in the same community as the proposed project, the jury would consist of taxpayers whose taxes are directly impacted by the project. This would then, they argue, constitute a conflict of interest.