Is obtaining a real estate permit approval ever easy?

Information about the various permits and approvals needed to move forward with a commercial development project is provided on the websites maintained by many municipal governments in Massachusetts. For example, the Boston Redevelopment authority maintains a website where information about zoning and planning can be found.

However, a real estate attorney would caution that ease of accessibility should not lull prospective real estate investors or developers into a false sense of security. The process of obtaining permits and zoning approvals is often not as easy as the municipal websites would suggest. In addition, zoning disputes might arise even after a project has started, forcing construction to a halt until the applicable zoning authority has once again granted approval. Such delays can be costly.

A recent article reminds us how uncertain the process of obtaining permits can be. According to one resident of West Cambridge, Massachusetts, municipal officials might be approving projects individually, without an eye to the larger impact on a neighborhood. The resident believes that the availability of land has attracted major real estate investors. Although municipal officials have published planning guidelines, the resident suspects that approval of too many residential areas without accompanying roadways and other infrastructure has resulted in gridlock. As city officials now attempt to deal with the congestion, a more reactive, rather than proactive approach to permit approvals may be in store for future real estate projects.

With the help of an attorney with a real estate permitting practice, a commercial developer can better navigate the murky waters of permit applications and zoning questions. If a permit is rejected, an attorney can guide his or her client through the administrative appeals process.

Source: Boston Globe, “Alewife building boom spurs worry among residents,” Stefanie Friedhoff, Dec. 29, 2014