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Brokers, Developers, and Working with Municipalities

By LVEDC Staff on September 26, 2014

The Brokers and Developers Council of LVEDC held a business development event on Tuesday, September 23 at 7450 Tilghman Street in Allentown.  The topic of conversation was “Working with Municipalities,” featuring a 45-minute panel discussion by local experts detailing the inner-workings of municipal processes and relationships with the development community.

 Participants on the panel included Kate Durso, Real Estate, Land Use and Development Group, Fitzpatrick Lentz & Bubba, P.C., Mike Ondra, President, Ondra-Huyett Associates, Sara Pandl, Director of Planning & Community Development, Lower Macungie Township, and Jean Sitler, Vice President, Brandywine Realty Trust. The panel was moderated by Don Cunningham, President & CEO of Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corp.

When asked what advice she would give to someone seeking permits or municipal approval, Sara Pandl responded with “Get organized and know what you’re asking for.” It helps to come in early and help the township accomplish their goals as well, whether it’s sidewalks or streetscape improvements. Jean Sitler later commented that one of the worst things you can do is shock a community, stressing the importance of meeting with local stakeholders and civic organizations, and being open and informative with the local constituents.

Kate Durso provided advice for those looking to start the approval process: Allow for adequate time, especially when outside agencies are involved. Projects often have multiple deadlines at various stages that need to be met through the approval process. Jean Sitler also chimed in regarding how a developer can help move the project along, stating that it is beneficial to engage the right parties and remain thoughtful from a planning, engagement, and sustainability perspective.

Rules and procedures vary greatly among Lehigh Valley’s 62 municipalities, two counties, and seven school districts. Don Cunningham pointed out that the high number of municipalities is often seen as a weakness from a site selector perspective. Mike Ondra commented that developers and builders should be thinking of the municipality as a partner in the development project, and also noted that municipal processes and procedures vary across the Lehigh Valley. The larger municipalities have dedicated staff to handle permitting, while the steps may take a bit longer in the rural areas where there is less staff support.

The overall message was to be prepared, be early, and be mindful of all stakeholders involved in a development process. Find ways that you can come to the table and do your best to make it a beneficial situation for all.

The building at 7450 Tilghman currently has 70,000 square feet of Class A Office space available for rent. The property is managed by Brandywine Realty Trust and represented by Jody King, VP of Brokerage Services at CBRE.

The Brokers and Developers Council of LVEDC is comprised of real estate professionals, developers, bankers, engineers, architects and constructional professionals. It serves in an advisory capacity to the LVEDC Board and staff. Council Chairman is LVEDC board member Phil Schenkel of Jones Lang-LaSalle. For information on the Brokers & Developers Council, contact Jarrett Witt at (610) 266-6775 or [email protected].

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