The zoning process is personal and therefore requires a person from the development team to be heavily involved in the grassroots neighborhood outreach. Knowing how to build a local zoning team is very important but it is more important to lead the team and let the neighbors know who is responsible all the way through the project's completion. Execution is important to neighborhoods. Our team has what it takes to complete projects and assure neighbors that we will not abandon half-built projects in their town. Furthermore, the project will be executed as it was presented during the zoning process down to the finishing details.
In many cases, there are intangibles influencing why a project is approved by a neighborhood and city. As a developer, we take pride in understanding the neighborhood concerns, the local elected officials' concerns, and the areas where the zoning is flexible. We then generate plans based on our findings during neighborhood research. At every step of this process, Waypoint takes accountability for gathering information and setting the strategy. Our experience shows that the same unit count and size can be approved through our process, while other developers would be declined due to a lack of neighborhood research/listening., design ingenuity, and flexibility. Moving quickly and shortcutting this process often yields poor results regarding density and square foot. Moving too fast or too slow affects the projects financial viability. Managing when to push forward and when to take our times is a differentiating factor when evaluating Waypoint verses other developers and their methods.
It is important to have the architects and legal counsel attend the neighborhood and elected official meetings. Waypoint will be responsible for presenting plans and encouraging open discussions and listening to comments from attendees. We are open to difficult conversations and criticism of our plans. We listen closely for the true concern, ask questions, and make sure we are not leaving without understanding. We schedule follow up on an individual basis for the concerns that are not broad reaching. We then brainstorm on ways to accommodate the concerns and augment/redesigning the plan. On many occasions, we are able to improve the plan by incorporating neighbors concerns into our plans.
Although this process sounds simple I must admit it can be difficult to bite your tongue while being told you're a bad person, your project is terrible, and you will never get approved for anything. We have been told by elected officials on many occasions our open approach is a breath of fresh air. Architects and legal counsel have told us they are accustomed to developers sending them in to present while the developer avoids the difficult conversations and makes the architect accountable for creating a plan that neighbors will approve. In our process Waypoint is accountable for the success of the planning, construction costs and permitting process.
Understanding objections and responding:
In recent neighborhood owner occupied is the best product for the neighborhood. Reducing unit count while maintaining bedroom count only makes the project more transient which we believe is not in the best interest of the neighborhood. We will further review this with them and discuss other concerns they may have and how we can work on them together. This process of working with the neighbors will be well documented and extemporaneously disseminated to the local elected officials and planning board. Prior to abutter meetings, we proposed converting an existing 24,000 sq ft building to 18 units. One neighbor asked that we reduce it to 9 units as 18 units would be too dense and would cause to much activity/traffic. Although this appears to be a request we simply cannot accommodate we believe the abutter deserves a thoughtful answer. We left the meeting and gathered additional detail from real estate brokers regarding the marking of 9 larger units. The best use for a 9 unit project would be to design 4 bedroom units and the most likely tenants would be students and young professionals in a shared living environment. Our current plan of 2 bedroom units was targeting a 30-year-old audience. Although a lower unit count appears to be less disruptive it will encourage a younger more transient audience which we believe will ultimately be more disruptive than 18 units. More bedrooms with fewer units would not reduce the number of residents nor would it decrease the number of cars. We engaged an engineering firm for a traffic study. The study showed 18 units would not generate enough additional traffic (due to this already being a busy area) to change the current traffic count. This data supports our position that two bedroom units which are owner-occupied are the best product for the neighborhood.
Altering a plan while retaining its ability to be financed:
This requires real-time market data for the value of the unit sales on all of the alternate plans being designed. Understanding what changes cost and what changes are revenue producing is critical to viable projects and must be known prior to making commitments for changes.