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Understanding development agreements in Pennsylvania

This blog has written repeatedly about the effect of comprehensive plans, zoning maps and zoning overlays on real estate development in Philadelphia. In virtually every such post, the issue was a conflict between the developer and either the municipality or a community group. A new type of land use control is being used to minimize these conflicts and provide municipalities a more flexible means of controlling commercial real estate development.

The new device is a development agreement which, in essence, is a contract between the developer and the municipality. A development agreement typically governs a single development project, unlike a zoning ordinance which may affect a number of developments on different tracts of land. Municipalities use development agreements to enumerate any special conditions that may be attached to the project. Developers use the agreements to provide a complete list of permits, municipality-imposed conditions and other contingencies that will affect the project.

Development agreement can take a number of forms, depending upon the wishes of the parties and the topics that are included. For example, a municipality may grant the developer a needed rezoning or an exemption from or modification of an ordinance, in exchange for which the developer agrees to pay additional development fees. Development agreements often require the developer to provide certain amenities, such as parks or public walkways, in exchange for a relaxation of set back or height requirements.

Anyone who may be contemplating a development in a municipality that uses development agreements will benefit from consulting an experienced real estate attorney. A knowledgeable lawyer can provide advice about the contents of any proposed development agreement and suggest additional terms or terms that should be deleted. Moreover, the knowledge and experience of such a lawyer can be a great assistance in drafting a development agreement.

Source: Google Books, "21.09 The Law of Zoning and Land Use Controls, 2nd ed." Barlow Burke, accessed on March 19, 2016

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