Are Developers & Builders Passive / Aggressive in Entitlement Negotiations?

Each day I'm challenged with a client's desire to do more with their property amid a housing crisis that needs more on every development proposal. I am currently working on a project where the city wants us to build six one-acre lots on six acres. We could reasonably build ten times as many senior condominiums and single-family detached homes.

Generally, the Wasatch Front land developers and home builders have gone along with local municipalities on land use and zoning decisions and not fought back. Few buck the system to try to increase density and housing choice. There are significant downsides to fighting back in time and money. Do we begrudgingly pick the low-hanging fruit offered by the local agencies rather than work for the best fruit at the top of the tree?

Is part of the problem that the developers and home builders are passive/aggressive in entitlement negotiations? Most accept the low-hanging fruit, while some go to war and try to crush their opponents. Some even do both. Have local agencies become more steadfast in only offering the low-hanging fruit of large lots because they want to strongly dissuade everyone from going to war for higher densities, the best fruit at the top of the tree?

I created Winning Strategies to negotiate entitlements without being passive/aggressive. Negotiating entitlements can't depend upon a winner and a loser. The best outcome is where each side believes that the outcome is equitable and fair.

Winning Strategies is based upon a negotiation entitlement strategy with the objective to "Win-Win" through the following principles.

Entitlement Negotiations are Soft on People, but Hard on the Problem.

  • We may all be negotiators, but we don't like to negotiate.

  • Negotiation is a stressful confrontation.

  • We see ourselves faced with an unpleasant choice.

  • If we are "soft" to preserve a relationship, we give up our position.

  • If we are "hard" we strain the relationship or lose it altogether.

  • We need to make the negotiation about the problem and not the people.

  • We need to be soft on people but hard on the problem.

Joint Problem-Solving Is an Alternative Negotiation Strategy That Addresses the Problem Rather Than the Feelings of Those Negotiating.

  • It is neither exclusively soft nor hard but a combination of each.

  • It is soft on the people, hard on the problem.

Joint Problem-Solving Revolves Around Interests Instead of Positions.

  • Identify each side's interests - the concerns, needs, fears, and desires that underlie and motivate your opposing positions.

  • Explore different options for meeting those interests.

  • Your goal is to reach a mutually satisfactory agreement efficiently and amicably.

Skeptics Quickly Point Out That All This Is Easy to Say but Hard to Do.

  • Joint problem-solving is like vows of mutual support and fidelity.

  • They produce more satisfying relationships, but they are hard to apply in the real world of stresses and strains, temptations and tempests.

  • At the start, you may try to get the other side to tackle the problem jointly but find yourselves in a face-to-face confrontation.

  • It is all too easy to get drawn into an emotional battle, fall back into the familiar routine of rigid positions, or let the other side take advantage of you.

If Needed, Return to the Step One, Entitlement Negotiations are Soft on People, but Hard on the Problem.

  • Few negotiations, if any, run smoothly and without conflict.

  • Step back and return to the original goal of being soft on people and hard on the problem.

  • Review the progress made and work out the conflicts that arose.

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by Stephen G. McCutchan