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Thread: Working for developers

  1. #1
    Cyburbian Dashboard's avatar
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    Working for developers

    For those of you who work for a developer, what type of work do you do on a daily basis? Also, I always hear people say that planners work for developers, yet you don't see openings with developers that much. Anyone have any tips for finding planning jobs with developers?

  2. #2
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    I work for developers as a private consultant. It's not the only thing I do, but it's probably about 25 percent of my work these days. At times it's been as much as 75 percent of my work.

    What do I do in my work for developers? Two things, mostly:

    - Provide expert reports in litigation matters, such as challenges to zoning laws and condemnation disputes. This involves a lot of due diligence research such as reviewing development application records, plans, ordinances, laws, deeds, etc.; and of course drafting the report.

    - Provide testimony in support of development applications before planning and zoning boards. This also involves similar types of due diligence research, particularly determining compliance with the relevant plans and regulations. I also advise applicants on changes they may wish to make to their application to make it more palatable (or better planned). Sometimes, I prepare renderings of what the development will look like when it is completed. However, the main part of the job, again, is research and the preparation of arguments in favor of the development.

    I know other people who are directly in the employ of developers that do such things as design subdivision layouts. However, that kind of work is more typically done by architects and landscape architects rather than planners.

    It's my impression that planners, whether they work as consultants like me or are directly employed by developers, are more typically likely to be involved in the research end of things than the design end of things, unless they also have a design degree. We help developers with the big picture of how their project fits into the community's plans and ordinances.

    Forgot to mention that there is also the real estate end of things, which is a whole other aspect of work for developers. A number of folks who do work for developers advise them on site suitability from a market perspective or develop pro formas. I haven't done too much of that work, myself, as I'm more of a land use planner type.
    Last edited by NHPlanner; 06 Mar 2007 at 10:34 AM. Reason: double reply

  3. #3
    Cyburbian Dashboard's avatar
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    Thanks for your insight. What you described is pretty much in-line with what I thought planners do when working for a developer. I guess the other question I have is, is it typical/worthwhile to send unsolicited resumes to development companies. Do developers typically post openings? Is the pay comparable to private sector planning firms?

  4. #4
    Cyburbian Jeff's avatar
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    Most planners who work for developers arent really planners, they are LAs

  5. #5
    Cyburbian
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    I would say go for it. Consulting firms and developers are private sector companies, they are just different types of businesses, so it shouldn't matter where you send your resume. Some businesses might have a policy of rejecting resumes from the back door (they only hire from within or from networking) but give it a shot. What do you really have to loose?



    The above image is taken from the APA salary survey.

    From working in the private sector, I think there are a few reasons why planners working in development will make more money:

    1. On average, the finished goods of consulting firms and developers are entirely different and generate different levels of profits. For example, consulting firms (with the exception of design-build) do not physically buy and develop the land. The finished goods of most consulting firms are a range of planning documents. These planning documents can be quite varied from a zoning ordinance to a transportation study to construction documents for a park. Some products from consulting firms are entirely advisory, such as expert-witness, wetland monitoring, etc. Though these finished goods are important in any development, they are not used by residents as a whole.
    2. The finished goods of the developers have a higher demand from the general public than a comprehensive plan. A comprehensive plan might cost tens of thousands of dollars worth in billable hours for a consulting firm to produce for a municipal staff. But who is going to be using it? Does the public download a comprehensive plan onto their IPOD? No. But buy a piece of unimproved land in a rapidly growing community, subdivide it, advertise it, grade it, put up a couple of model homes, and you are going to easily sell out all the lots before you have even started construction.

    Bottom line, the bigger the pie the bigger the slice.

  6. #6
    Cyburbian
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    planetcs, What are the possibilities of getting a job with a developer after spending abot 3 years in public sector?

    I am an architect and planner (both with professional degrees) and would like to work for a developer one day advising them on design ideas.

  7. #7
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    Veggie, I would think that developers would be interested in the expertise you have gained from an inside perspective. Working in the public sector you have learned how the approval process works and, it being a small planning world, you may even know some of the personalities involved and what it takes to satisfy them from a design perspective.

    The one caveat is that some private sector folks are reluctant to hire people who have only public sector experience due to their impression, justified or not, that people in the public sector are used to and will expect to continue their supposed cushy 9-to-5 lifestyles.

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