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Developer gets zoning approval but may lose property

The developer of a large mixed use project at the intersection of Broad Street and Washington Avenue in South Philadelphia has obtained final zoning approval for the project from the Zoning Board of Adjustment but may be barred from proceeding by a lawsuit commenced by the owner of the land. The chronology of this property dispute reveals some of the many hazards of developing urban land.

The developer signed a purchase agreement for the five-acre site in 2013 and agreed to complete the purchase not later than March 15, 2016. Meanwhile, the project has engendered a great deal of opposition from neighbors of the project. The council member whose district includes the land has introduced resolution to bar construction on the land for one year, but the bill has not advanced since it was introduced on May 12.

The owner of the property has commenced a lawsuit in state court seeking a judgment that the developer is in default and that his right to develop the land has terminated. The owner's argument is based upon the clause in the purchase agreement that mandated a closing by March 15, 2016. The owner is also seeking to retain $800,000 in deposits made by the developer. The judge said that she would take the matter under advisement. Meanwhile, the project remains in limbo.

This case involves the "usual suspects" in development disputes - the developer, the land owner, and irate neighbors. Anyone who is caught up in such a case may wish to seek a consultation with an experienced real estate attorney. A knowledgeable lawyer can provide useful advice on the real estate laws and zoning procedures that may affect the project and useful suggestions for legal strategies that can maximize the chances of obtaining a favorable outcome.

Source: Philadelphia Inquirer, "Site owner's lawyer tells Blatstein: Walk away," Jacob Adelman, May 18, 2016

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