Why Brokers Should Consider a Land Use Attorney
As brokers, you are constantly looking at ways to maximize value for your clients. Whether you represent sellers or buyers, you may be missing out on huge opportunities by not engaging in land use due diligence. Many of you are familiar with real estate due diligence, on title work, deeds and insurance, but you have probably not utilized a land use attorney unless your client asked you to do so. Sophisticated investors and developers utilize land use attorneys such as myself to review the zoning code, master plans, future land use and comprehensive plan, previous approvals and site plans on the site, previous applications, staff reports and comments, neighborhood objections, development agreements, unified development agreements, recorded documents such as easements and restrictive covenants, and plats & plat notes.
Some scenarios of how a land use attorney can add value and help brokers stand out from the pack: I recently was hired by a developer/purchaser to engage in due diligence on an urban infill parcel in northeast Broward County. He was looking to develop a multi-family residential condo and wanted to know if there were any problems. I reviewed all the relevant documentation and noted that a portion of the property had been subject to an eminent domain taking from the local government, creating non-conformities with the setbacks that would require variances or reduce the allowable footprint of a building. I also noticed that while it met city requirements for multi-family, the Broward County Land Use Code would not allow them to build more than two units without platting. Using this knowledge, we were able to achieve a nearly seven-figure reduction in the purchase price.
I was also recently hired by a seller to engage in due diligence in a city in southeast Broward County. Once again, I pulled all the records and began digging in. I noted that there was a development agreement and previous approvals that “vested” their rights and the ability to build a commercial structure up to a certain square footage and height without even having to go back to the city commission!
Lastly, I was hired by a property owner looking to renovate their existing property which had an unusual use and was not allowed under the existing zoning code. A special exception had been approved, but did not run with the land, only with the previous owner. With that knowledge, we were able to craft a plan to maintain and renovate the existing use and expand with a different and more profitable use on the rest of the site.
As you can see, hiring a land use attorney can uncover a multitude of otherwise missed opportunities. Please feel free to email me at JShir@beckerlawyers.com or call me at 954-364-6028. I look forward to hearing from you soon.