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Thread: Ethical question

  1. #1
         
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    Ethical question

    As planners we know in advance where the best property is located in our respective areas (in the particular city our county that we work in). Has anyone used this knowledge to make a "wise" land investment for a profit? For instance purchase a parcel of land that happens to be in the middle of the future site of a wal-mart, or a nice new develpment.

  2. #2
    maudit anglais
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    Well, I wouldn't think most planners would have the money to do something like that.

    As a public servant I would have an ethical problem with this.

  3. #3
         
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    To me it appears to be unethical, but I have heard the argument that all information that comes through a local govt. office is public knowledge ----- just curious to any thoughts.

  4. #4
    I would say you would be walking on shaky ethical grounds there, becuase you may be the person that has to review plans for a development on that property. The fact that you owned that parcel would probably influence the way you reviewed proposals.
    "I'm a white male, age 18 to 49. Everyone listens to me, no matter how dumb my suggestions are."

    - Homer Simpson

  5. #5
    Cyburbian Emeritus Chet's avatar
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    I beleive its unethical if its in the city that you work for and its for investment purposes. If you have influence over it, avoid it. County might be another issue, as you dont have the influence and are just using your educated abilities to make decisions.

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    There really are two sides.

    If you have no decision making influence on the actual project is there any harm? Yet, on the other hand as a public servant are you really serving your community by taking advantatge of "insider information"?

  7. #7
    Cyburbian Emeritus Chet's avatar
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    I think you just answered your own information. If its "insider information" its likely unethical to use it for personal profit.

  8. #8
    Cyburbian Emeritus Chet's avatar
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    Exerpt from the code of ethics:

    I think all planners should follow AICP's code of ethics even if you're like me and think AICP is CRAP:

    3) A planner shall not perform work if there is an actual, apparent, or reasonably foreseeable conflict of interest, direct or indirect, or an appearance of impropriety, without full written disclosure concerning work for current or past clients and subsequent written consent by the current client or employer. A planner shall remove himself or herself from a project if there is any direct personal or financial gain including gains to family members. A planner shall not disclose information gained in the course of public activity for a private benefit unless the information would be offered impartially to any person.

    ..and...

    7) A planner must not use the power of any office to seek or obtain a special advantage that is not in the public interest nor any special advantage that is not a matter of public knowledge.

  9. #9
         
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    I agree -----

  10. #10
         
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    Ethics was a topic at an APA meeting I attended and this senario made for interesting conversation ----

  11. #11
    Forums Administrator & Gallery Moderator NHPlanner's avatar
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    bturk beat me to quoting the Code.

    I would most definitely find it to be unethical, no matter what your level of "control."
    "Growth is inevitable and desirable, but destruction of community character is not. The question is not whether your part of the world is going to change. The question is how." -- Edward T. McMahon, The Conservation Fund

  12. #12
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    I'm not so sure I would entirely agree with the above...

    It is walking a fine line, but under certain circumstances I can see no ethical objection to investing in real estate. I would be certain:

    - the property has been zoned for its ultimate use;
    - there is a master plan in place which indicates the future use of the property and all of the conditions (road access, water, sewer, etc.) that will affect it;
    - that I do not in any way use my office to influence the location of the intended user;
    - that I do not in any way participate in the city's review of the proposed development.

    Face it, we do use our deeper knowledge of the community in our personal lives, even if it is just to decide where to buy a house. That having been said, I am still not certain that I would do it, just because of the perception some people may have. At the same time, I would probably have people criticize me if I were to buy investment property in another community.

  13. #13
    Cyburbia Administrator
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    Re: Ethical question

    Originally posted by elandon
    As planners we know in advance where the best property is located in our respective areas (in the particular city our county that we work in). Has anyone used this knowledge to make a "wise" land investment for a profit?
    I've had the opportunity. I won't do it.

    What I have used is my ability to determine the neighborhood's dynamics by reading the built environment -- that sense of being an urban psychic of sorts. In my Denver house hunt, it came in real handy. Still, though, that's acting as an intelligent homebuyer, considering their fiture residence both as a roof over their head and a generator of equity, and not necessarily using any "insider information."

    Now ... what if you bought a property not in the municipality where you were employed, but in another nearby municipality. You can "read" that things are "happening," and you're aware of officially adopted planning documents that propose more intensive uses for the area where the subject property is contained. It's not insider information, but rather public information. It's not going to be your personal home, but rather investment property. Okay to buy?

    When does the purchase of real estate become an "inside buy?" Could a group consisting of planners and other parties "pump and dump" land the same way as with stocks? Planners start rumors about development proposals in an area, the price is pumped, the land is sold at an inflated value, after which the so-called plans change? I think it's possible. It's definitely unethical.
    Growth for growth's sake is the ideology of the cancer cell. -- Edward Abbey

  14. #14
    Cyburbian Jeff's avatar
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    I see it done all the time and I would not think twice about doing it if presented with the opportunity and financial backing. Hell, where I used to work the buddies of the politicians would buy up land that had a potential for being preserved. Funny thing, it usually ended up getting preserved. Even funnier thing, alot of the properties were comprised almost entirely of protected natural resources so they didn't face much development potential anyway.

    Damn, the disgusting things you come across when working in the public sector.

  15. #15
    maudit anglais
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    why would they buy land that was going to be preserved? Wouldn't they want land that was going to become developable? Or maybe something that the government was going to have to expropriate sometime down the road for a highway or whatnot?

  16. #16
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    Re: Re: Ethical question

    Originally posted by Dan
    When does the purchase of real estate become an "inside buy?" Could a group consisting of planners and other parties "pump and dump" land the same way as with stocks? Planners start rumors about development proposals in an area, the price is pumped, the land is sold at an inflated value, after which the so-called plans change? I think it's possible.
    Not just possible, but brilliant! (ala Max Bialistock in The Producers). Great idea, Dan. I'm in.

  17. #17
    Cyburbian Jeff's avatar
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    Forgot to mention that it was always bought at the "top dollar" usually wiothout getting the land assessed or with only one assessment.

    There aren't many elected people around here who are too interested in "preserving" anything. The way it works is their cronies buy up worthless undevelopable land, and then it gets bought and preserved at the rate of prime agricultural land. Got it now?

  18. #18
    Cyburbian donk's avatar
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    Tranplanner,
    its an american thing, the 4th ammendment (takings) and compensation.
    Too lazy to beat myself up for being to lazy to beat myself up for being too lazy to... well you get the point....

  19. #19
    Cyburbian mike gurnee's avatar
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    I do not think a planner should have any land "investments" within his/her jurisdiction...not even a rental housing unit.

  20. #20
    Cyburbian
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    I am sure you guys would expect me to come from this perspective...and I will.

    It is certainly not unethical to buy or sell land in the juristiction within which you work--all things being equal.

    Of course seldom is this the fact.

    If everybody knows where the Wal-mart site (ie in the public domain) is going to be and you are fortunate enough to get in, though it is more likely you would be a part of some partnership, because if everybody does know where the site is surely those prices for retail ground have gone up (where I am say 20-25 buck a dirt foot for pad sites).

    However if in fact it is inside info you ought to be toast.

    same goes for if in the past knowingly or other wise you acted in a way that increased the value of that land.

  21. #21
         
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    So, the feelings that I am getting from the comments is that there is a difference between "buying and dumping" property for a profit, and simpilly purchasing a home?

    It is kind of sticky, because if you are buying a home you are doing the same thing "buying and dumping" unless you plan on living in that home forever right?

  22. #22
    Cyburbian
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    No, I think you can flip the land as quickly as you want so long as you have not influenced said property nor used non-public information as the reason for buying or selling.

  23. #23
    Cyburbian Habanero's avatar
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    Hmm

    I'd have to say buying a house in the city you worked for wouldn't be considered unethical, or a "sticky situation" if you were going to live in it. I know plenty of planners that move to up and coming cities and buy homes and when they leave the job and sell their home they make a killing. That's not unethical, that's just smart. Now, if you're buying a lot of houses, that's another story. I know my city has a rule about outside occupations that may conflict with your city occupation.. like real estate agent. I would't be able to sleep at night if I knew I was doing something that even slightly could be looked upon as unethical.
    When Jesus said "love your enemies", he probably didn't mean kill them.

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