Zoning and Land Use Law for Community Objectives
Our experience helps protect municipal policy.
Our experience in zoning and land use is unparalleled in Illinois. For all types of development and redevelopment matters we have the skill and appreciation for the local nuances of projects to address the needs of our clients, whether creation of local planned development regulations, large-scale mixed-use development tracts, niche downtown developments, historic preservation properties, affordable housing programs, or residential bulk and teardown issues. This is how we do it:
- We know the law
- We are creative
- We are visionary
- We understand the many intricacies and choices involved in the zoning process
- We write smart, common-sense, easy-to-understand zoning documents, agreements, code provisions, and entitlement ordinances that survive legal challenge and stand the test of time
Our clients praise us for providing a legal framework within which to develop their plans, and skilled support to ensure the sustainability of their local land use decisions.
Zoning and Land Use Development Law Services
Land Use and Comprehensive Planning
Elrod Friedman attorneys have extensive experience in zoning, comprehensive planning, and land use matters. Our experience ranges from drafting comprehensive zoning codes for municipalities and counties to fashioning innovative, effective individual zoning and development regulations to address specific situations. We draft clear, workable, and in many instances, innovative zoning and other municipal code provisions. Our work in this regard has helped facilitate revitalization of central business districts, including vacant storefront and related property maintenance regulations. We know well the interplay, legally and practically, between zoning codes and comprehensive plans. We have advised numerous municipalities in Illinois and elsewhere on the implementation of form-based zoning regulations and non-conforming use/structure requirements for major redevelopment areas.
Example: We were principally responsible for the legislative amendments to the Illinois Municipal Code that for the first time specifically authorized Illinois local governments to undertake the types of design and appearance review necessary to better protect and ensure delicate community standards and neighborhood character.
Land Use and Development Documents
Laws, ordinances, resolutions, agreements, and other legal documents are no good unless they are legally sound, written in common English, devoid of unnecessary and arcane legalese, and accurately reflect applicable business terms and policy intentions. For our government clients, we have written and negotiated the full gamut of government land use documents, including adult use regulations, building codes, historic preservation regulations, residential bulk and tear down regulations, land management plans and agreements, impact fee and contribution ordinances, land use and zoning codes, subdivision codes, sign and billboard regulations, stormwater management and floodplain regulations, tree protection regulations, infill and construction site management rules, wireless antenna facility documents, affordable housing plans and inclusionary zoning housing regulations, and bluff and ravine and Lake Michigan shoreline development rules.
Annexation and Development
We have negotiated massive and complex annexation and development agreements. We are particularly adept in formulating and implementing creative and practical solutions to complex, multi-party, multi-issue land use disputes. We are effective in devising “win-win” agreements to resolve acrimonious disputes. We have successfully litigated local zoning, land use, annexation, and disconnection issues in all Illinois federal and state courts. As a result of this wide-ranging experience, we have also created model annexation, subdivision and development agreements that both protect our clients and save them time and money.
Tax Increment Financing
Tax Increment Financing (TIF) is a powerful economic tools that a municipality can use to revitalize an aging downtown, a run-down commercial corridor, or other blighted property. We have helped our municipal clients create and administer many TIF districts. We know that while time consuming, the mechanics of creating and administering a TIF district are only the beginning of the process. A TIF district, throughout its life, brings many other complex issues — issues that have been exacerbated by the 2009 economic downtown and more recently the economic turmoil caused by the COVID-19 public health emergency. We know how to work with a range of TIF financing mechanisms, such as pay-as-you-go obligations, developer financing, municipal financing through revenue or general obligation bonds, or municipal financing arrangements with developer participation.
Example: Our TIF experience includes projects that established the largest geographical TIF in the country for transit-oriented improvements in the City of Chicago, obtained TIF extensions from the General Assembly, and calculated and negotiated statutorily required disbursements to school and library districts in residential TIFs. In a TIF with a prevalence of parcels with “upside down” EAV or negative increment, we reconstituted the district by terminating the old TIF district and creating a new one, allowing a fresh start and longer time for development. In a TIF generating little or no increment, we assembled and utilized municipal-owned land that can be provided at a discount as an incentive to developers if they build and occupy the property in accordance with performance-based and time-based criteria. And in a downtown TIF, we used “job covenants” to award bonus incentives to employers who bring and keep jobs to the local downtown area.
Many of our clients have emerged as regional leaders in the provision and support of affordable and workforce housing, and we have been well-suited to aid their continuing efforts to meet the housing needs of current and future residents of these communities. We have written several inclusionary and affordable housing ordinances, including inclusionary housing ordinances that have become models for communities throughout the region. We understand the many state and federal laws that govern affordable housing. We regularly guide our municipal clients in negotiating zoning and financial documents that security the provision of affordable housing units as part of larger developments. We have successfully secured property tax relief for affordable housing properties which saved the local housing authority thousands of dollars per year. And we have a long-standing and valued relationships with affordable housing advocates in the region, having partnered with them and our municipal clients on a variety of affordable housing projects and on educational efforts to promote affordable housing and workforce housing opportunities.
Decades of Experience in Zoning Laws
Working with communities to plan their development
At Elrod Friedman, we understand the legal framework for smart, sustainable growth. When you work with us, you get more than superb zoning lawyers with decades of knowledge and experience. You get true community partners.
Private Sector Knowledge to Enhance Opportunities
Successful land use and development projects require mutual understanding and cooperation between the public and private sector. Land use transactions need not be contentious. Conflict is usually counterproductive to municipal land use objectives. Because of our extensive private developer representation in land use matters, our understanding of the objectives and sensitivities of land developers allows our local governmental clients to protect their policy objectives while finding common ground with property owners.