For a long time, land use planning has consisted of efforts conducted at the state and municipality levels, to guide individuals and businesses’ development plans. However, it is becoming more common for these planning efforts to guide developments proposed through community land use planning processes. Essentially, community land use planning takes the comprehensive planning done by the state and/or the municipality and applies it to specific geographic areas. Inside of those areas, the members of those communities are actively involved in the planning process.
The end result is that the process has allowed the different communities to develop different regulations and ordinances that reflect their shared visions and desired outcomes. This allows the people who live in these communities to have a say in development. It may also lead to less conflict when developments are proposed because the community’s concerns were likely addressed before the project proposal hearings.
What does this mean for developers?
For some, it means meeting the requirements as developed in the community land use planning process. Community plans may include new zoning ordinances and other regulations, which must be followed. In addition, community land use planning has resulted in community-developed plans to address brownfields remediation/redevelopment and other projects that can benefit the nearby landowners and improve their community.
Providence, for example, has fairly active neighborhood associations which work to assist their communities with all kinds of projects, including community land use development. For illustrations of these, see the Community Development Committee for the West Broadway Neighborhood Association or the South Providence Neighborhood Association.
For other developers, it could mean (and has meant) that there are new opportunities. Some developers have begun assisting communities by creating development proposals, securing funding for those projects, and constructing and implementing the projects. Particularly, there have been a number of community land use projects being proposed for community power – solar, especially. Larger solar farms are developed for community land use: a group of customers can all utilize the array at once.
This may prove especially useful for those with a lack of adequate sunlight on their own property, and for those who do not have the land space for a larger array. Rhode Island, through the Office of Energy Resources, started community solar projects for limited customer enrollments in 2019, which may grow. To a lesser extent, a small movement has led to “community hydro” projects as well.
Government funding has increased for a number of projects; federal funding, for example, may be available to assist with stabilizing neighborhoods that are experiencing large numbers of foreclosures and abandonment, as well as incentivizing renewable energy developments. The funding opportunities, combined with increasing interest for these projects among various stakeholders, led to development opportunities that are larger in scale and benefit many people at once. Many developers are starting to see these opportunities and are capitalizing on them by specializing in these types of projects.
If you’re a developer (or potential developer), or you’re looking to construct projects in a given community, and are wondering about the legal implications of particular community land use planning, contact our office today. We are available for any person looking to begin or expand on their current community development project portfolio as well. Call us at 401.477.0023