Many say land use is political. Some say land use is legal. Others say land use is planning. At Womble Bond Dickinson, we think land use is all three. Womble’s land use and zoning practice incorporates all three approaches when helping clients navigate their unique land use projects.

We are a team of attorneys, certified land planners, and paralegals located in nine offices in five contiguous states (Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia) and the District of Columbia who know that successful projects require integrated political, legal and planning services.

Womble Bond Dickinson’s land use and zoning practice is built on years of experience representing private developers and owners, as well as governments and municipalities. Our client’s projects range from industrial and manufacturing facilities, mixed use, retail, office and other commercial uses, multi-family residential, utilities and a variety of public/private partnerships.

We match the level of our services to each client’s needs on a project- by- project basis. Along with our in-house land planning professionals, our real estate development attorneys work directly with clients on their projects involving general land use matters. 

When a project shifts a community’s paradigm or becomes a lightning rod, members of our core land use and zoning team dispatch to marshal the facts and develop creative applications of local, state, and federal laws to advance a project to success. These attorneys practice exclusively in the areas of land use law and litigation, land litigation, municipal law, and land planning.  

A distinguishing feature of the Core Team is that members previously worked for a significant period in local or state governments. Consequently, the Core Team knows how to work within the powers and limitations of governments to identify and implement creative solutions. Although litigation may be necessary to blaze a trail to success, our team recommends it only after all reasonable efforts have been exhausted, and when litigation provides the best potential solution for our client. 

The team authors the North Carolina Land Use Litigator, a blog that digests and analyzes land use legal issues that matter to property owners, business owners, developers and local governments in North Carolina. The team has also created a series of videocasts on such topics as land use, zoning, development agreements and more.

Browse our Land Use and Zoning Lawyers and Professional Staff

Experience

Our attorneys and land planners have combined decades of varied experience in land use practice. Our clients want to use their land for their intended purposes, not legal battles. Our focus is on helping clients bring their projects to successful completion and avoid litigation.

Our land use and zoning experience includes:

  • Zoning and rezoning
  • Special and conditional use permits
  • Site plans and subdivisions
  • Interpretations and variances
  • All sorts of administrative land use permits such as building permits and grading permits
  • Development agreements
  • Financing vehicles including Special Assessment Improvement Districts (SAIDs) and Tax Increment Financing (TIFs)
  • Economic development agreements
  • Utility agreements for water, sewer, electricity and other utilities
  • Public/private partnerships
  • Regulatory and physical takings
  • State and federal permits, including those involving riparian buffers, wetlands and brownfields
  • Related land use litigation in conjunction with Womble Bond Dickinson’s Real Estate Litigation group

Representative Client Matters

  • Guided large international dot coms in locating data centers in North Carolina, including rezoning, annexation, site plan approval and negotiating multiple agreements with governments, such as development agreements, economic development agreements and utility agreements.
  • Counseled a large electronics manufacturer in land use matters pertaining to building a North Carolina facility.
  • Advised a large international bio-manufacturing company in land use and property matters associated with the existing and expanding facilities.
  • Helped multiple governments establish an interlocal partnership and construct a regional wastewater treatment facility.
  • Represented a major home improvement retailer in securing multi zoning law text changes, variances, annexation site plan and other development approvals for retail stores.
  • Represented a developer of a large mixed use development in connection with drafting zoning text amendments to permit the development and obtain development entitlements.
  • Helped a national health care specialty developer expedite and obtain approvals for construction of a new mixed use medical office and surgery center.
  • Counseled a private college in land use matters and secured permits for the expansion of the college.
  • Represented a multistate retail developer in connection with the development of a new shopping center which required drafting and lobbying the adoption of new zoning laws, site plan approval and agreements with the local government.
  • Represented various clients in all types of land use litigation, including defending rezonings and development permits, seeking overturning governmental interpretations and variances, 1983 civil rights litigation in state and federal courts and various state and federal permit and jurisdiction questions.

Case Studies

Game Changing Projects

Some projects change a community. The change might be new jobs, a major investment, or a type or level of development unforeseen.

We identify, assemble and coordinate a specifically tailored team of professionals to provide a single integrated solution for our client. The skills, experiences, and contacts of team members are matched to specific issues, regulations, and jurisdictions associated with each project. We identify obstacles and opportunities arising from game changing projects, and develop positive and lasting relationships between the project and governments to enhance the value of our clients’ projects. The following case studies provide real-world examples of challenges our clients have faced and demonstrates how our Core Team helped them achieve their objectives:

Case Study 1Game Changing Industrial Facility

Sometimes, a client has a mission critical facility to build and a short timeline to build it. In those situations, we assemble a multidisciplinary team to achieve our client’s goal. If you want more detail as to how this approach works, click here for a complete case study.

Case Study 2Game Changing New Community

Sometimes, clients have a “field of dreams” vision for a new community? If so, they typically encounter governments that have not recognized their vision yet. Because we understand governments and infrastructure development, we help transform the client’s vision into a lasting reality where a government cooperates hand-in-hand with the client to match the client’s development of a new place with infrastructure development. If you want more detail as to how we did this in one case, click here for a complete case study.

Lightning Rods and Political Footballs

Sometimes, the best projects become lightning rods and political footballs. Our team knows how to restore focus on the merits of the project and address political issues. Case studies 3 and 4 describe two such situations:

Case Study 3Moratorium and Changing the Rules

Local governments are diverse and idiosyncratic. A proposed project may satisfy governmental land plans and requirements, but become a lightning rod where elected officials abruptly begin trying to changes the rules to stop a particular project. In those special situations, an immediate response is necessary and frequently the response includes negotiation and litigation in order to drive the project to success. If you want more detail as to how we handled this type of problem in one case, click here for a complete case study.

Case Study 4: Powerful Neighbors

Location drives where great projects are placed, but clients cannot select their neighbors. Powerful neighbors can pose substantial barriers to success. They have passion and time to develop multiple arguments and open multiple fronts to attack a project. A successful project must win all arguments and on all fronts; whereas, as opponents only need to win one argument or on one front. We understand these realities and assist clients to anticipate fronts and arguments, prepare for these challenges and prevail. If you want more detail as to how we handled these problems in one case, click here for a complete case study.