Within the context of city planning and land development / redevelopment, there are a handful of interpretations that apply to the term “lobbying.” To begin with the simplest interpretation of the word, an individual can lobby a municipality, department or public official by persuading him or her to act / vote in a way that helps reach a desired outcome. One can “lobby” by writing an elected official, attending and voicing concerns at a public hearing, etc. Vice versa, an elected official can lobby his or her constituency.
The term, “lobbying,” unfortunately, comes with some political baggage as well, often conjuring images of smoke-filled rooms where the real decisions are made before a single ballot is dropped in the box. This dramatization of lobbying, however, can be rather misleading, according to George Garcia, president of G.C. Garcia, Inc. Garcia would know, given his nearly 30 years of experience in city planning and commercial development services, including providing community and local government lobbying services to his firm’s select clients.
According to Garcia, lobbying is always needed for a project. He also believes the most important aspect of any underlying lobbying issue is thoroughly understanding the rules and regulations that play a role in a development or similar project, especially those related to planning, land use, redevelopment, zoning, and the likes.
Commercial developments can affect more than one aspect of a community; new structures and facilities can impact the local economy, traffic, infrastructure, and more. Because of the influence some projects may have on multiple aspects of peoples lives, a good lobbyist must be able to understand the legal implications for every facet of a commercial development, not just one, in order to properly educate a municipality and its citizens.
“Lobbying is not purely political, nor a single-issue, and is based on an understanding of the rules, regulations and how a certain project is supposed to work,” says Garcia. “This understanding ultimately allows us to convey the proper information to the desired entities, thus, permitting us to best serve our clients.”
At G.C. Garcia, Inc., we understand that lobbying plays an integral part in ensuring a project moves swiftly. For example, we recently provided our services to an assisted living and elderly care facility. As the project’s development services firm, our lobbyists on staff met with various city officials to bring them up to speed in regard to the project itself, its positive impact on the surrounding communities and city infrastructure, and what steps will be taken for the project to reach completion.
Lobbyists on the G.C. Garcia staff also met with community stakeholders and homeowners to bridge any gaps in understanding what the new facility would bring to the neighborhood.
In order for on-staff lobbyists to fully brief city officials, residents of a community and others on a development’s progress, they must be highly knowledgeable of the applicable laws and regulations. If not, forming a line of communication and understanding between a developer and municipality can be difficult, and thus, timely.
The knowledge of applicable laws and regulations does not begin and end at the state or county line, however. According to Garcia, a comprehensive awareness and grasp of federal laws is also at play for lobbyists when meeting with, and educating, the concerned parties on a current project.
“People are not always familiar with federal policies, so it is our job to make sure no page is left unturned when educating the proper persons on our client’s compliance with federal codes and initiatives,” says Garcia. “Many projects involve educating a project’s neighboring residential communities, its staff, and the local planning commission and council on federal laws guiding the development.”
While this might not sound like the type of political lobbying that happens behind closed doors, this is what much of lobbying consists of for development services firms like G.C. Garcia, Inc. to benefit clients’ projects and profits. The better educated a community and government entity is on a client’s project, the more likely that project will be smoothly facilitated and supported by a neighborhood and its elected / appointed officials.
“A good lobbyist can find the sweet spot between understanding the regulations and issues held pertinent by a community or city,” says Garcia. “But, they must also have an impenetrable understanding of a client’s building or commercial development goals and objectives.”
Lobbying’s Role in Redevelopment Projects
Though the presence of well-informed lobbying in commercial projects is generally important, there are instances where lobbying is even more essential to the vitality of the project. These instances can often present in the form of commercial and mixed-use redevelopment projects.
“If they are of the same size and scope, commercial and mixed-use redevelopment projects can be much more complex, thus, furthering the need for lobbying,” says Garcia.
Because redevelopment projects typically are in areas surrounded by other development, the process of lobbying the community and surrounding property owners can be much more nuanced. It is often the case that redevelopment projects involve the transferring of public funds, especially if the funds are offered by a jurisdiction as an incentive to redevelop in an area of blight. This element adds an additional facet of complexity, and requires diligent research and subsequent outreach to the communities and authorities involved.
Needless to say, without having the lobbying support for a large redevelopment project, especially, if it is mixed-use or commercial in a dilapidated area, a property owner managing to lobby the appropriate entities without a development services firm is virtually impossible. Garcia believes good lobbying is needed for every commercial or mixed-use project, large or small.
“We, at G.C. Garcia, Inc., certainly believe every project requires lobbying, even before the project starts,” says Garcia. “Even prior to the project, and before the lobbying, we do reconnaissance for our clients and gain an early understanding of the factors and people at play, as well as the larger implications of a project.”
Since G.C. Garcia’s conception nearly 20 years ago, Garcia and his team of registered lobbyists have worked with various stakeholder entities in cities throughout the state of Nevada, ranging from town advisory boards to members of Congress.
To learn more: www.gcgarciainc.com.