Ethics Question: Is It OK For Neighbors to Extort Developers?

Update:  Doug is pissed.


When neighbors vote no to a zoning applicant at a community meeting, some applicants may ask “what would it take for you to say yes to my project?”  Oftentimes those discussions and negotiations are requests to alter the aesthetics of the design, more or less parking, or changes in density or rental composition.

When the requests are for the benefit of most of those affected in the community or those closely impacted neighbors, one can understand the opposition.

1701 South – Where neighbors on Rodman Street behind this vacant lot are fighting a development project [Source: Google Maps]

But something a bit more uglier lurks at 17th and South.   This ZBA case, a four-story mixed-use development to go into this lot (also see: amendment) went through a number of design changes and refusals by L&I.   After enough edits, the ZBA finally approved the variances allowing the project to go-ahead.

Naturally, the upset neighbors on Rodman Street behind this lot appealed to Common Pleas court, where many other contentious zoning issues wind up.   Earlier this month, Common Pleas denied the appeal in favor of the developer.  The project can move forward.

But wait–there’s a new twist.   Now the group of Rodman Street neighbors headed by Doug Risen are demanding cash to drop the next round of appeals at Commonwealth Court.

One has to ask:  if you’re generally against a particular development, how genuine is your opposition to a project if you’re demanding cash in exchange for your support (or in this case, non-opposition)?   That doesn’t sound very ethical to me.

I got a hold of the e-mails between the neighbors and the developer.    Read it for yourself.   What do you think?

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