Economic development is often associated with TIFs, CRAs, JEDDs, and the alphabet soup of other acronyms used by local governments to convince developers to choose their community as the site for new development. But establishing intuitive, user-friendly land use and development policies and procedures is an equally important and often overlooked method of attracting and retaining development. Local governments should consider adopting some of the following best practices:

Well-trained planning and zoning staff and planning commission

Planning and zoning staff may not always have the training in land use planning and zoning to effectively and efficiently serve as the community’s point person when a developer knocks on the door. Also, planning commissions are often made up of civic-minded residents, but those citizens rarely have backgrounds in real estate, law, or another planning-related profession. Planning staff, planning commissions and other boards and commissions should be well-trained and able to efficiently guide the developer through the approval process.

User-friendly forms

Often, communities utilize a single form for variances, rezoning, building permits, and a variety of other purposes. Although building and planning staff may understand the form, forms should be intuitive to developers and property owners.

Zoning code provisions that provide a degree of certainty

It is no secret that developers like certainty. Developers do not like when they cannot determine whether the plan would be permitted under a zoning code and other ordinances, or when the process required to obtain approval is unclear. If that happens, then developers may choose an alternative, lower risk community that provides more certainty in their ordinances.

Jessica Trivisonno is an attorney in the Public Law group at Walter | Haverfield. She can be reached at or at 216-619-7870.

For more information on policies and procedures that encourage development, Jessica Trivisonno and her colleague, Todd Hunt are presenting “Encouraging Economic Development Through Planning” at the Northeast Ohio Planning and Zoning Workshop on June 8, 2018 in Conneaut, Ohio. The workshop is open and sessions are designed for local officials, planning commission and board of zoning appeals members, community development professionals, professional planners, attorneys, architects and other interested citizens. Register here.