How many times have you heard that the most important attribute in real estate is location, location, location?

In my opinion, location is not the most important aspect, but rather what you can do with the real estate.

We all have a silent partner in every piece of real estate owned in the form of the city, county, state and sometimes federal government.

Yes, location is important, but so is your purpose for the site. Whether you are planning to build a home, a neighborhood shopping center or a cement factory, all are tied to the allowed use.

A municipality goes to great lengths in developing a master plan for a city through the input of the residents. This plan is the overlying document that dictates many things, and use of a particular parcel of land is one of them.

Compliance gone wild

Often we may feel that the city or county is not on our side. I have heard from clients who felt harassed by planning and building officials regarding minute details that did not make sense.

For example, my client came close to potentially losing hundreds of thousands of dollars in value because of three walnut trees he needed to cut down to build homes.

I am all for saving trees, which he was doing with several oak trees on the site. He is also planting two trees for each one he cuts down. Fortunately, we were able to show the officials the future benefits.

You do have a voice

The process is structured to allow for public comment by other property owners and residents within the area of the development as well as anyone else.

Consider one previously proposed shopping center here in Napa on Solano Avenue.

Zoning allows for this type of use, which is why the owner was selling the land to a developer. Local residents mounted a campaign against the development claiming the use of their property will be detrimentally affected by this new development.

As a result of the public comments the developer rescinded his application for the shopping center. Last I heard a senior living complex was being discussed for the site, which is a much less intensive use.

Eminent domain — two dirty words?

Eminent domain has come up in the news lately. It is a tool given to the government through the Constitution’s Fifth Amendment to take property for fair compensation when its use was needed for the good of the public.

This practice was widely used in Napa County for the flood control project. This was a valid reason for implementing, though others might disagree.

The government partner we all have in our real estate ownership is a powerful one. Often the process is cumbersome and sometimes undesired. But we would not have our sustainable, viable and growing communities without these processes in place.

I like to think it is a compilation of the desires of the residents of what they hope to see in their community.

Burt M. Polson, CCIM, is a real estate broker with ACRES Real Estate Services Inc. helping clients sell, buy and lease real estate. Reach him at 707-254-8000, or


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