Deciding to become a developer can be attractive for some folks in public service

angry mob
Angry Planning Mob at a Planning Commission Meeting

 

At every One Day Workshops I do with IncDev,  there are always a few folks attending from the planning staffs of communities in the region.   We also see elected officials and planning commissioners taking these classes.  Often these folks are there looking for insight and techniques on how to craft policies and zoning ordinances that will encourage incremental development (or at least level the playing field for small operators).

Talking with them one on one, I found that some plan on starting small projects of their own as a side hustle while they keep their current day jobs.  I am curious to see how these project go and what they learn in the process.  While they have a lot of insight into what can be accomplished with variances and all manner of discretionary approvals, they also know how uncertain doing anything that is not a straightforward as-of-right project can be.  That understanding leads most of them to look at simple as-of-right deals, especially if they are looking to build something in the municipality they serve.

I think that recovering elected officials, planning commissioners and municipal planners would make good small developers. They have already spent years being insulted and condemned by the wide range of poorly-informed citizens and colleagues pictured above.  So they may already have a thick skin, a good thing in a small developer. They also have developed the ability to suspend disbelief and critical thinking so that they can operate effectively within some rather arcane and contradictory rules. They know all too well that planning policy and implementation are never about objective facts and municipal math, but instead are always awash in the feelings of people fearful of change and contemptuous of potential neighbors.  That knowledge will protect them from being overly idealistic of hopeful about the planning and development process.

Elected officials and public planning staffers have been stagehands and bit players in the rather elaborate Kabuki theatre production of Planning and Development in the US. When they leave public service or a staff gig they are ready for more substantial and meaningful roles.

2 thoughts on “Deciding to become a developer can be attractive for some folks in public service

  1. Lisa April 1, 2018 / 6:00 pm

    You give us too much credit.

    • rjohnanderson April 1, 2018 / 10:13 pm

      Folks may need help, coaching, and local cohort of folks doing similar work, but yes, I have faith in the potential of folks making the transition from public service to development work. Some may not find the work to be a good fit, but the same could be said of recovering builder, brokers, CPA’s, Engineers and Architects. The skill needed for Incremental Development can be learned. Nobody rolls out of the womb knowing how to make a building happen. It is all learned behavior at some level.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s