Sunday, October 25, 2009

Lawyers as Timekeepers

As mentioned before, lawyers have a job that requires that they work as the middleman in certain relationships (between the owner and contractors, for example). This week's classes brought to light the importance of our role as timekeepers. To get a variance issued, there are certain procedural processes that one must do before the board accepts them. One of those procedures is to have the proposal published 15 days previous to the board's next meeting. If it is published even 14 days prior, the variance is no good. As the attorney for our client, it is up to us to not only fill out the paper work properly, but to also make sure that it is turned in by this deadline. Generally, this is the practice for all attorneys in all areas of the law, and is a lesson we should learn before making that mistake. Missing deadlines can lose cases, or variances, or even make a contract to buy a piece of property void. It is deemed so important that the ABA Rules of Professional Conduct 1.3 states "[A] lawyer shall act with reasonable diligence and promptness in representing a client." (Emphasis added) Reasonable diligence and promptness requires keeping up with such deadlines, and insuring that all are made. Overlooking such deadlines can lead not only to problems with our client and that relationship with the client, but also problems with the Bar, or potentially opening up yourself to a malpractice lawsuit. Thus, as lawyers, we always need to keep in mind our role as a time keeper in all situations, and take that role very seriously.


This week our group was assigned the task of determining what processes we would have to go through in order to receive a variance to build a cupola on top of our building. Fortunately for us (and our client), the property has recently been rezoned to b-1-a, which has no set back limit and no height requirement. Therefore, there will be no extra hoops to jump through, and we may go ahead and build the cupola. Basically, our client will be able to build on 100% of his property, and may legally build a skyscraper if he so chooses. We also learned the finicky nature of approved variances. Generally, the variance must be unique to the ground, and must give some sort of undue hardship on the party seeking the variance. However, many variances do not meet these standards, and are nevertheless granted. The question then becomes, should something more be done to abide by the letter of the law, or do we like the freedom that comes with allowing the elected board to act arbitrarily? In our scenario, (assuming that we actually did need a variance) the practice is a good thing; as it is highly unlikely that not having a cupola would cause any kind of undue hardship.

In reference to our sky scraper, there are many reasons why this might not be a good idea. One of these reasons may be that it is completely surrounded by an historic district, and something more appropriate to the neighborhood would be our recommendation. That being said, we look forward to discussing issues surrounding the historic district in our next couple of classes.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Rezoning Process

This week, The Real O.C. has been going learning the process for getting a parcel of property rezoned. Earlier in the week, we visited the Department of Planning and Development, where they helped us learn the process to apply for rezoning. The rezoning process takes approximately 3 1/2 to 4 months. In order to have the parcel rezoned, there must be a letter sent to the Planning Controls Division, and the letter should include the property address, the current zoning of the property, what you want to rezone the property to and what the intended use will be. If the person that is requesting the rezoning is not the owner, then the owner of the property must also write a letter giving persmission for the rezoning. In addition to the letter requesting the property be rezoned, the following items must be submitted: Legal Description of the property, Deed, Site Paln, and a fee. The fee is currently $200 for 10 acres or less, which includes the $75 rezoning fee, and $125 advertising fee. (If your request does not get to the City Council level due to being denied or no action taken, then the $125 advertising fee will be refunded).

Once you have submitted your request, there will be a public hearing before the Planning Commission. If the request is recommended for approval by the Planning Commission, it will be scheduled for a public hearing before the City Council, who has final authority on all rezoning requests. If the request is denied, you must appeal the decision to the City Council.

Stay tuned for more information!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Hampstead and the Smart Code

Hampstead falls under the city of Montgomery's smart code.  Normally, a neighborhood like this would violate several codes and regulations.  For example, Hampstead has wider sidewalks and more narrow streets.  Further, parking is encouraged on both sides of the street. Additionally, Hampstead has alley ways for its residents to use, bar within the neighborhood, a farm, and even a dog park!  Check out the Hampstead's website at!

Visiting Hampstead

Last Monday, we visited Hampstead.  Hampstead is a fairly new neighborhood located right off of Taylor Road.  The neighborhood combines different uses such as: commercial, agriculture,  and residential.  In addition to the current businesses, Hampstead is planning on building a temporary building for a coffee house by day and a pub by night to be done in 2010.  This was interesting to our group, because the building would normally be illegal since it violates height requirements.  However, the city is allowing it to be temporarily placed in the front of the neighborhood until it can be moved to the back on a lake after the area in the back is developed. 

Overall, Hampstead provides a unique experience for its homeowners and the general community.  The area is beautiful, appealing, and functional.