Remember the big picture

James Howsley


You are regulated

Once the basics are understood, you can turn your attention to identifying sites that might accomplish established goals. At this stage, careful consideration must be given to issues of title, zoning, environment, stormwater and other permitting considerations. Washington’s regulatory environment continued unabated during the recession, and a host of new regulations can take you by surprise if you don’t familiarize yourself with them at the beginning of the project. Simply put, old ways may not work with the new regulatory regime.

Prepare a plan and surround yourself with experts

So how do you go about pulling off a successful project? First, develop a game plan and plays early on. Before the kick-off of a project, anticipate all issues that may arise. Be prepared to address those issues head-on; they do not go away. Most successful projects involve skilled experts. Assemble your team early to identify technical issues that may arise, and address them before they become a problem. What distinguishes a good team from a great team is knowing in detail the challenging issues around development within a particular jurisdiction. Don’t try to avoid this expense. By anticipating staff or neighboring property owner concerns, issues can be accommodated through design or mitigated or managed in such a way that they never come to light. This saves time, money and big headaches in the long run.

Have a plan B

Too often people get so absorbed with trying to complete a project that they lose all business sense. Know your project limits – internally and externally. Delay can be your worst enemy. If compromise on certain points is in the project’s best interest, know what solutions you can and can’t live with. Unwillingness to compromise is a common mistake. And if a project is going to languish in appeals to the courts for years and you don’t have the resources to see that through, you might want to exit and leave that fight for another party.

Along with your plan, you need sound knowledge of the fundamentals if you are going to succeed in the business of land development. The extra time spent in studying the big picture will save you time and money in the long run.

James Howsley is a Jordan Ramis PC shareholder and a member of its Dirt Law practice group. He focuses on land use and real estate while serving clients in Oregon and Washington. Contact him at 360-567-3913 or at

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