Land use litigation is unpredictable and can result in delays in a development project (which translate into additional costs for the developer or damages for the municipality), so both parties should consider mediation and settlement. However, not every attorney knows how to settle a land use case. Just as the disputed permit application was required to be processed according to the municipality’s code, any settlement must also follow the code. The municipality can’t circumvent its code in order to settle litigation, and resolution of any land use dispute necessarily involves consideration of the public interest and protection of the rights of the public, regardless of whether any member of the public is a named party in the litigation. Certain procedures must be followed to guard these interests, and the settlement agreement itself must include essential elements of a contract to be enforceable. If a land use case isn’t settled properly, the agreement can later be invalidated, leaving the parties worse off than they were in the litigation.
Carol Morris has handled land use damage litigation for the cities in the Association of Washington Cities Insurance Poll Risk Management Services Agency since 1994. She has successfully settled over 25 land use cases in her career (both with and without damage claims). Read Carol’s article: “Settle Land Use Litigation: Swords into Ploughshares,” posted on this site.