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Zoning & Real Estate: Universal Insights on the People and Process of Modern Permitting

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    14 LU AIA credits available

This is a sponsored event by the Harvard Graduate School of Design Executive Education.

An immersive two-day technical and practical crash course on the permitting process, designed to explore, examine, and test existing notions of modern permitting and entitlements in real estate development.

Led by a dynamic instructor duo with decades of insider insights into zoning and development, participants will scrutinize this murky process from within using a real-world case study and culminating with a mock-trial-style Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) hearing. Attendees will be exposed to the core skills of permitting finance, decision-making, and the ultimate externality of people, priorities, personalities, and our built environment.

The program will begin with a quick refresher of the legal principles of modern zoning, followed by an immersion into the practical applications of zoning. This will include the financial “Go” / “No-Go” decision-making process, all run through the lens of the ever-changing psychology of the ultimate “externality” – the human factor and condition.

Following a robust Socratic style of class discussion and debate, attendees will dive into the practical applications of the American entitlement process by examining real-world projects which pivoted on zoning relief. Attendees will also obtain a sharper understanding of the hearts and minds of a given project and will hear from a visiting guest speaker: a Boston-area developer who will share experiences “from the trenches” on projects large and small, from residential and multi-family to commercial, affordable and smart-growth housing developments.

The instructors will challenge participants to pass familiar light through an entirely new prism, taking a deep dive into navigating this often cloaked and clouded permitting environment, and examining the impacts of the ever-present “human” variable.

The program will culminate during the afternoon of Day 2, with a mock-trial-style exercise during which the instructors will reanimate a past real-world Zoning Hearing, turning the original framework and transcript of that public hearing into a capstone learning experience. Attendees will be assigned roles lifted directly from the original zoning hearing, such as developer/applicant, professionals, abutters, public interest groups, city elected officials, stakeholders, NIMBY(s), supporters, and Zoning Board of Appeals members. The Zoning Board of Appeals will be chaired and moderated by your instructors and modeled under a Roberts Rules style of proceedings.

Once the vote is in the instructors will guide the class in an open discussion a post-mortem to examine “what happened and why.” Will our reenactment resemble the case study – or will it diverge from what happened in the real world?