10C — September 25 - October 15, 2020 — Fall Preview — M id A tlantic Real Estate Journal


L and U se

By Neil A. Stein, Kaplin | Stewart Covid contemporizes land use planning


OVID has been chal- lenging for humanity on many levels, not

will be lost forever, and oth- ers will need more than just a loan or bailout. Survival may

Perhaps an office landlord with vacancies created by the expanding work-from-home

that an economic crisis de- mands greater government regulation and significantly more social spending funded by increases in business taxes. Undoubtedly, some or all of those steps may be necessary to reset the economy on an upward trajectory. Long term solutions will require a great deal more innovation. One logical but overlooked place to begin is with local zoning. Regulations must allow for flexibility in design and use. However, many codes are best described as Neolithic and moribund. Overly strict zon-

ing reduces access to safe and affordable housing. Obsolete codes prevent adaptive reuse of empty commercial buildings for new or mixed uses. Commu - nities often equate the status quo with economic stability. However, the absence of inno- vation, linked with lengthy and complex procedural hurdles, shrink economic growth, and leave communities without a reliable commercial tax base. Our burgeoning technology sector requires modern and efficient buildings to house its operations, with e-commerce businesses requiring near- by distribution centers and warehouses. Malls and retail centers need the flexibility to revitalize as mixed-use devel - opments, with retail, office, and residential space under one roof. But in many commu- nities, a shift to mixed-use or denser development requires zoning changes or variances that delay projects or stop them altogether. Historical preserva- tion is a laudable goal where appropriate, but at times will unfairly prevent the old from giving way to the new. Post-COVID, “adapt or die” may become the new reality. Local governments must be willing to embrace change or else face a grim economic future. I anticipate that 2021 gov- ernment and developers will collaborate to create innova- tive ordinances to permit af- fordable workforce housing, mixed-use commercial build - ings, and easily accessible dis- tribution centers. Dimensional regulations must be revised to encourage and incentivize sensible development and growth, with a streamlined permit and approval process. These changes can be imple- mented without sacrificing a community’s quality of life, clean water and air, and parks and recreation. My sense is that greater flexibility in land use regulations will encour- age developers to allocate resources toward community- improvement projects that would otherwise require fund- ing with shrinking taxpayer dollars. As Albert Einstein said, “the measure of intelligence is the ability to change.” Neil Stein is a principal and member of the Land Use, Zoning & Develop- ment group at Kaplin | Stewart. MAREJ

the least of which is the s igni f i cant impa c t on our economy. All levels of government have been s t rugg l i ng to meet the

I anticipate that 2021 government and developers will collaborate to create innovative ordinances to permit affordable workforce housing, mixed-use commercial buildings, and easily accessible distribution centers.

be dependent on the willing- ness of local government to be flexible, nimble, and willing to adjust zoning regulations for unique situations. Take for example, the mall that needs to backfill empty space.

economy. There may be com- mercial space that must shift to residential use, and other space may require significant physical alterations to accom- modate new technology. There are experts arguing

Neil A. Stein

new economic reality. Busi- nesses, large and small, have struggled to say afloat and to keep employees working. Un- fortunately, some businesses

Firmly Rooted in the Law and in the Community We are well grounded in every facet of real estate law, from acquisition to construction. We are committed to serving the needs of our clients and our communities.

Contact: NEIL A. STEIN • nstein@kaplaw.com 910 Harvest Drive, Blue Bell, PA 19422-0765 • 610-941-2469 • kaplaw.com Other Offices: • Cherry Hill, NJ 856-675-1550 • Philadelphia, PA 215-567-3120 Kaplin Stewart A t t o r ne y s a t Law

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