So, you want to be a developer

Developers are a rare breed. They are almost like a secret society. It’s not like they show up at job fairs or will be one of the highlights at little Johnny’s career day in grade school.


Most developers probably don’t grow up wanting to be one. It seems that the trade is passed down from father to son. You don’t go to college and take development 101.


Many people conjure up Satan with a pitchfork when they are asked to describe a developer, but that is really not fair. Most people owe their peace of mind to developers because they live in a community that is a development. Even those who live in town are in a neighborhood that at one time was someone’s dream as a development.


For decades developers went about their work of buying land and putting together commercial or housing projects without a lot of notice. That is not the case today. Developers, who try to remain in the shadows, are becoming a little more high profile, as development becomes a hot topic.


Not all developers are major developers who build 500-unit housing projects; some are small-time developers who build four-house subdivisions. For some it may be a one-time deal, and for others it’s a lifetime investment that becomes a family business that branches into other ventures.


Many big-time developers who have financial resources to begin with become very rich. Their names become very well known in the community – Schell, Tunnell, Freeman – and they tend to give back to the community in big ways.
Money is the foundation of all developments, because it takes a lot of it to make one happen. The multitude of county, state and sometimes federal regulations that require permits all have a price tag attached. It seems everyone has his or her hands out.


The other component of development is time. Years pass from the time a developer comes up with a great idea for a piece of land until the first shovel of dirt is turned over.


To reach that point, you have to convince nine men and one lady who sit on the county planning and zoning commission and county council that your project will not be the one that tips the scales and makes it impossible for everyone else to live in the area. For some developments, you only need to convince the five members of planning and zoning.


You will also have to hire some experts to help you convince those county officials and you will have to endure the scrutiny of your neighbors who want the drawbridge pulled up.


If your development is large enough, you will have to take your dog and pony show to Dover and convince a roomful of state officials that you know what you are talking about.


Because some developers have taken short cuts and caused hardships for the people who live in their communities, people have come to distrust most developers. And with the current trend of NIMBY permeating throughout the area, it’s harder and harder for developers to move a dream to a reality.


But if you are a gambler, the odds are still in your favor your development will get approved. The vast majority of developments in the county are approved. Some are modified and then approved, but it’s rare that one is turned down.


It does happen, so you have to be prepared that all of your work and the tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars invested may go down the drain. But then again, there is always court, and a few more thousand dollars.


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