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Top Three Mistakes Developers Make in Contentious Rezonings

Real Estate Rezonings

Navigating the complex landscape of land use zoning and real estate development can be a daunting task, particularly in areas with strong anti-development sentiments. At Yellow Duck Marketing, we have seen firsthand how critical it is for developers to approach contentious rezonings strategically. Here are the top three mistakes developers make and how to avoid them:


  1. Not Hiring a Professional Team of Experts Early Enough


One of the most significant errors developers make is not bringing on a professional team of experts early in the process. Engaging a real estate land use attorney from the beginning can make a substantial difference. Experts like Jeff Brown or Bridget Grant at Moore & Van Allen, and Collin Brown of Alexander Ricks are invaluable for guiding developers through entitlements and understanding the city’s or town’s critical issues and personalities of various city council members who need to be convinced of the plan.


For instance, in towns with strong anti-development sentiments like Davidson, NC, having a knowledgeable land use attorney like Susan Irvin of Irvin Law who understands the local political climate around Lake Norman and the Charlotte Area is crucial. These professionals can navigate the nuances of local regulations and help anticipate potential roadblocks, ensuring that developers are well-prepared for any challenges that may arise. Susan can deal with difficult situations even involving long-seeded community concerns about asbestos for example.


  1. Not Hiring a PR Professional Early Enough


Another common mistake is neglecting to hire a PR professional team with deep real estate knowledge at the outset. Public relations experts can help craft messaging that is both clear and non-inflammatory. They work alongside the legal team to guide developers through the community outreach process, ensuring that the public relations strategy aligns with the overall goals of the project. That might include assistance with community outreach to ensure people come to community meetings, graphics, website, media relations, mailers and signage design.


At Yellow Duck Marketing, we have provided public relations assistance for numerous rezonings, with a remarkable success rate. In fact, only one project we assisted with was denied, and it was primarily because the developer did not engage a land use attorney or PR professional early enough. By the time the developer sought help, significant damage had been done due to offensive interactions with the community and the spread of misinformation by neighbors. This case underscores the importance of proactive PR and legal involvement from the beginning to foster a positive relationship with the community and mitigate misunderstandings.


  1. Not Being Genuine, Flexible, or Transparent


The third critical mistake is failing to be genuine, flexible, or transparent throughout the rezoning process. Developers who truly listen to the community’s concerns and demonstrate a willingness to negotiate and offer community benefits tend to see more successful outcomes. Transparency is key to building trust and ensuring that misinformation does not derail the project.


Successful rezonings often involve a single source of accurate, up-to-date information about the project. This can be effectively managed through a dedicated microsite or website, where the community can access reliable details about the proposed development, its impact, and the benefits it brings. Providing a central hub for information helps prevent the spread of false information and fosters a more informed and engaged community. Developers who are the most transparent and are genuine in creating a great place for the community tend to have the greatest success.


The success of a contentious rezoning hinges on early involvement of professional experts, strategic public relations, and genuine, transparent engagement with the community. By avoiding these common mistakes, developers can navigate the complexities of rezonings more effectively and achieve outcomes that benefit both the project and the community. At Yellow Duck Marketing, we are committed to guiding developers through this intricate process, ensuring that each project is positioned for success from the outset.