The Role of the Land Use Attorney as Project Manager

Land Use

Over the years, as land use development projects have become more complex, the role of the land use attorney has evolved from strictly providing legal counsel and advice, to serving as the project manager.  This is true whether the attorney is representing a private development client or serving as the attorney for a municipality.


On Long Island, land use development projects are more complex now than at any previous time.  Most projects now include a variety of different and distinct approvals, including change of zone, site plan, variances, architectural review, environmental review, and engineering and building code review.  There is virtually no project of any significant size or scope that is a “matter of right” any longer.  Given the adoption of many new regulations, such as floor to area ratios, and sky exposure plane limitations, even the construction of a new, single family dwelling will often involve a variance application, site plan approval and architectural review.  The increase in the number of approvals needed and the growth in the complexity of the review process have resulted in the need for more consultants and additional evidence in support of an application.


All of this calls for the land use attorney to fill the role of project manager and point-person on an application.  The attorney must supervise the development team of architects, engineers and land use planners to make sure that all of the professional consultants are coordinating their efforts in the approval process, and review all materials and evidence prepared by consultants in support of an application.  To be effective, the lawyer must have a basic understanding of the various disciplines of the consultants.  Eventually, these project management skills will result in a coordinated presentation in the hearing room on behalf of the land use developer led by the land use attorney, or the comprehensive review of an application on behalf of a municipal board or agency.  These skills are not learned in the classroom, but rather in day-to-day practice, and go hand-in-hand with a thorough knowledge of the law and the procedures applicable to a project.


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