2A — April 24 - May 14, 2020 — M id A tlantic Real Estate Journal


M id A tlantic Real Estate Journal

M id A tlantic R eal E state J ournal Publisher, Conference Producer . .............Linda Christman AVP, Conference Producer ...........................Lea Christman Publisher ........................................................Joe Christman Section Publisher ............................................. Steve Kelley Section Publisher ............................................... Kim Brunet Editor/Graphic Artist..... .................................Karen Vachon Contributing Columnist .................David Nemecek, Bohler Mid Atlantic R eal E state J ournal ~ Published Semi-Monthly Periodicals postage paid at Hingham, Massachusetts and additional mailing offices Postmaster send address change to: Mid Atlantic Real Estate Journal 350 Lincoln St, Suite 1105, Hingham, MA 02043 USPS #22-358 | Vol. 32, Issue 8 Subscription rates: 1 year $99.00, 2 years $148.50, 3 years $247.50 & $4.00 single issue - plus postage REPORT AN ERROR IMMEDIATELY MARE Journal will not be responsible for more than one incorrect insertion Phone: 781-740-2900 | Fax: 781-740-2929 www.marej.com

David Nemecek

With Creativity, the Entitlement Process During COVID-19 Brings UnexpectedOpportunities W hile the land devel- opment permitting process may look different now, it is possible to entitle properties in the wake of COVID-19. Applicants might even see unexpected benefits and opportunities in pursu- ing approvals, now. Though the process varies between states and jurisdictions, here is what Bohler’s teams are seeing across the country and the ways we are collaborating with jurisdictions and clients to move projects forward. Jurisdictional and Agency Submissions What We’re Seeing: Most jurisdictions and agencies are still processing land devel- opment applications. Some continue to accept hard-copy submissions via drop-off bins. Other jurisdictions are accept- ing electronic submissions. Many municipal staff members are working remotely or in staggered shifts. Even with a smaller per- centage of staff present in the municipal offices, jurisdictions are eager to keep applications moving. Doing so reduces the anticipated backlog of submis- sions once “business as usual” resumes. It also allows the jurisdictions to continue collect- ing much-needed permit fees. A Different Approach: Ap- plicants aren’t the only ones adjusting to a new submission process–jurisdictions are, too. At Bohler, we are helping juris- dictions adapt to these changes. In promoting the efficiencies of electronic submissions, our Teams are encouraging their adoption. We are also col- laborating with jurisdictional staff regarding the technology to put the above approach into practice. For hard copy applications, our teams are working with staff on the logistics of how and when applications are received. Even small details are being reworked, like postmarking and time-stamping packages. We are collaborating with municipal engineers and agen- cy reviewers, many of whom are working from home, to promote reviews. Unexpected Opportuni- ties for Applicants: In general, the entire review

process has relaxed a bit in some jurisdictions. With site inspections on hold and fewer distractions created by review- ers working remotely, review- ers’ workloads have changed. It has freed them up to answer questions and respond faster, allowing applications to be processed more quickly. Public Hearings What We’re Seeing: Most hearings are being held by phone or via video-conferencing technology. Often, the appli- cant is not able to provide input or expert testimony. As a way to include the public in these virtual meetings, some boards are using a two-meeting process. In the first meeting, the board reads and discusses the application. Then the public has a set number of days before the next meeting to submit or ask questions. The second meeting then addresses the public’s input. States are already taking action to formalize the virtual hearing process. The Pennsyl- vania State House is in the pro- cess of passing a bill allowing municipalities to conduct public hearings through telecommu- nications while Pennsylvania is subject to a declaration of emergency. The bill outlines the steps needed to include public input. In early March, Governor Cuomo took a similar step in waiving some provisions of New York’s Open Meetings Law. Other states will likely follow their lead. A Different Approach: It takes more than a solid pre- sentation to succeed in a vir- tual hearing, especially when you can’t give one. Reviewing boards need as much informa- tion as possible, sent in an organized fashion, to render a decision with limited (or no) input from the applicant and design experts. Our teams are taking extra steps to set up the presentation

in advance. Bohler is sending board members detailed lists of all exhibits and presentation materials in the order they will be reviewed. We are participat- ing in pre-coordination calls to outline who will speak and when, while others stay muted. To address public response, Bohler’s teams have amped up virtual pre-coordination efforts with local civic groups. Often, our teams work to obtain a let- ter of support from these groups to submit with the application. Our teams are also encour- aging jurisdictions to embrace technology and adopt virtual hearings. Sharing what has and hasn’t worked in other ar- eas helps jurisdictions establish and refine their own processes. Unexpected Opportuni- ties for Applicants: As with submissions, Bohler is finding that jurisdictions and agen- cies want to keep applications moving forward. Many are reluctant to adjourn hearings if applications are comprehensive and well-coordinated. Moving Entitlements Forward toComeOut Ahead In a volatile market, develop- ers need confidence that they can secure project approvals. Though the process is different under our Country’s current landscape, it is possible to move entitlements forward–and per- haps even secure approvals more quickly than usual. It may be an opportune time to keep projects moving, espe- cially those requiring a complex and lengthy permitting strate- gies. Doing so could position you and your project to emerge from this difficult and chal- lenging situation ahead of the game, entitlements in hand. If you have questions about your jurisdiction’s current en- titlement process, contact our experts. We have 700+ Bohler employees working remotely throughout the Country. Our continued on page 4A


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