Encouraging Zoning Reform to Promote Urban Economic Growth

Published July 15, 2016

Review of Triple Real Estate Value by Marketing Zoning Changes, by John L. Gann Jr., CarpeHoram, 2015, 66 pp., $59.75 at http://www.salesjobsandtaxes.com/

Owners of small land development companies may feel they operate at the mercy of big government, but a new book by author and urban planning expert John Gann Jr. explains how they can spark positive change by educating local politicians about the damage zoning restrictions do.

Gann’s book, Triple Real Estate Value by Marketing Zoning Changes, is full of valuable tips, advice, and strategies for small-business owners who wish to be the change they want to see in their community. Gann explains how they can get involved in their communities, and have fun growing their businesses, by encouraging reform of zoning laws and zoning decisions to promote economic growth.

Gann, a former city planning director and a respected city economic development consultant and expert, has been published in newspapers and magazines such as the Wall Street Journal, Real Estate Today, and Urban Land. His book is packed with useful advice and information, presented succinctly and without filler or time-wasting digressions.

Winning Hearts, Not Lawsuits

Contrary to many activists’ assertions, the best way to effect change in one’s community is not through lawsuits and the court system but by engaging lawmakers in public forums with persuasive arguments based on facts and sound principles. Investors who win over the hearts and minds of the city’s decision-makers and community residents are more successful in their attempts to develop land, Gann writes.

Existing zoning laws restricting land use and development may not reflect “full real estate potential, as determined by its location and market demand,” creating a gap between what the community is and what the community could be, Gann explains. Developers must not view zoning as a permanent barrier, he says, but instead see such laws as a temporary challenge, to be defeated without the use of expensive attorneys.  

Mind the Gap

Investors can win, Gann says, by closing what he calls the “zoning gap,” by helping lawmakers understand why the difference between zoning laws’ stated goals and their actual effects on consumers affects their communities.

The gap between intended goals and actual outcomes, Gann says, is a consequence of outdated, poorly considered, and incomplete restrictions. Real estate investors should talk to lawmakers, using facts and stories to show them how changing regulations can benefit the entire community and create win-win situations.

Using cordial, win-win approaches instead of contentious, win-lose courtroom battles, “you’re not selling a zoning change, you’re selling its benefits,” Gann writes.

Closing the zoning gap thus provides an opportunity for investors to reap profits while improving their communities for everyone.

Winning Without a Fight

Another important element of Triple Real Estate Value by Marketing Zoning Changes is the wealth of information it provides about how to present concerns in public. Zoning hearings are typically held by a city council or a zoning board or planning commission. In these settings, Gann explains, a key to success is to listen to supporters and opponents before the official hearing is held.

Small investors, he says, need to address objections and suggestions thoughtfully, early in the development stage, so the public hearing becomes a non-event. They also have to be open to negotiation and revision, accepting the fact their plans may have to go through several rounds of revising in order to pass objectors’ personal tests.  

City council members will be impressed, he says, when the investor articulates solutions to potential problems and demonstrates unified support from voters. Local lawmakers, he explains, like to hear current residents and incumbent city businesses approve of proposed zoning changes.

Worth the Investment

Promises of doubled or tripled land value may seem exaggerated, but actually reading and thinking about the strategies Gann details removes those doubts. For much less than the price of a real estate attorney’s time, Triple Real Estate Value by Marketing Zoning Changes will provide readers a wealth of information that will help them change their communities for everyone’s benefit.

Arianna Wilkerson ([email protected]) is a marketing project coordinator with The Heartland Institute.