Pace Land Use Law Center Hosts 22nd Annual Alfred B. DelBello Land Use and Sustainable Development Conference focused on Balancing Economic Realities with Environmental and Social Concerns

December 16, 2023
LULC Annual Conference 2023

On Thursday, December 8, the Elisabeth Haub School of Law at Pace University’s Land Use Law Center hosted the 22nd annual Alfred B. DelBello Land Use and Sustainable Development Conference. This year’s conference theme was Balancing Economic Realities with Environmental and Social Concerns. Additionally, as part of a pre-conference ceremony, the Center honored three individuals at their Founder’s Award Reception.

The Founder’s Award Reception held the evening before the annual conference provides a platform to recognize a current Haub Law student, a Haub Law alumni, and an individual or municipality. This year, current Haub Law student Gabriella Mickel was selected as the recipient of the second annual Professor John R. Nolon Student Achievement Award for her dedication and commitment to excellence in fulfilling the mission of the Land Use Law Center. “I am honored to have received the John R. Nolon Student Achievement Award. The Land Use Law Center blends innovative teaching, mentorship, and research to produce action-oriented solutions,” said Gabriella. “Currently, over 35 students are working with the Center, hosting workshops, writing blogs and articles, assisting local governments, and contributing to state-level programs. It’s the kind of place that offers students like me the opportunity to succeed, and I am extremely grateful.”

In addition to the student award, two other awards are given out annually. Michael J. Goonan ‘11, a shareholder with Greenberg Traurig, LLP and a Haub Law alumnus, was the recipient of the Distinguished Young Attorney Award, as a result of his continued commitment to land use and real estate law. Finally, Michael D. Zarin, co-founder of his firm, Zarin & Steinmetz, LLP and an adjunct professor of law at the Elisabeth Haub School of Law at Pace University, was honored with the Founder’s Award in recognition of his ongoing commitment to working collaboratively with numerous communities and his career of work geared towards positive change. These three significant awards were presented by Jessica Bacher, Executive Director, Land Use Law Center, Tiffany Zezula, Deputy Director, Land Use Law Center, and John R. Nolon, Distinguished Professor of Law Emeritus and Co-Counsel, Land Use Law Center.

Each year, the Annual Land Use and Sustainable Development Conference brings together hundreds of attorneys, business professionals, academics, and local leaders to learn about national, regional, and local innovations and best practices. These thought leaders and policy makers convene to confront the challenges that are faced in land use. This year’s conference theme, Balancing Economic Realities with Environmental and Social Concerns, featured sessions on comprehensive and environmental plans and tools, affordable green housing, takings law and case updates, ethics in law and planning, resiliency and energy and so much more.

The morning portion of this year’s conference featured sessions on ethics, and a morning keynote session, Planning the New York Metropolitan Region, delivered by Tom Wright, President & CEO, Regional Plan Association. In the afternoon, breakout sessions were held on Green and Resilient Affordable Housing along with a session focused on surveying the evolution of the takings law, its impact, and where the future seems to be taking us in this area. Experts, academics, and practitioners in these areas participated in these sessions, adding insight, posing questions, and engaging the audience throughout.

This year, the Groundbreaker’s Award Recipient was Barbara Kendall, a Coastal Resources Specialist in the Local Waterfront Revitalization Program Unit in the Office of Planning, Development & Community Infrastructure at the New York State Department of State. The award was presented by Tiffany Zezula. During her career, Barbara Kendall worked with communities to provide the tools and resources to balance environmental and economic goals, with a large focus on consensus building as part of that process. In 1996, in her capacity as Director of the Dutchess County Environmental Management Council, she participated in the first version of the Land Use Leadership Alliance Training Program, called the Community Leadership Alliance program. Barbara also worked at the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation. Throughout her career, Barbara has remained committed to coming up with practical solutions to real life problems while engaging stakeholders positively. During the presentation of the award, Tiffany noted that, “Barbara is a champion of the environment and has used her strength as a leader and facilitator to guide watershed groups and municipalities into effective champions of environmental protection, including the creation of the Wappinger Watershed Intermunicipal Council, which remains active since 1999 and involves 14 municipalities.”

During the conference, Christian Dorsey, Chair, Arlington County Board, delivered an informative keynote address on How Arlington, Virginia became the first jurisdiction in the National Capital Area to eliminate single-family only residential zoning. Christian detailed the timeline that, in March 2023, the Arlington County Board unanimously voted to expand housing options in residential areas previously zoned exclusively for single-family homes. He noted that over the past two decades housing costs in Arlington County have risen significantly, quickly outpacing the buying power of the average household. He explained in detail how the decision to allow up to six units on lots zoned for low density residential followed years of significant public engagement and debate from Arlington residents, focused on concerns about the environment, infrastructure, and more. The discussion focused on the overall engagement process and the overall complexities, which ultimately resulted in the Board’s historic decision.

The conference continued with additional sessions and breakout sessions, with a focus on sustainability, environmental planning, new technologies, and energy, as related to land use law. The last session, a Law Update Session, titled “Lessons from Luminaries of Land Law: Latest and Greatest Decisions,” featured well-established Land Use Law scholars and practitioners. Historic cases and decisions were discussed along with predictions on where the law is headed in the future.

Each year, the Conference is made possible by the generosity of a significant number of sponsors who believe in the mission of the Land Use Law Center and the importance of this annual conference. This year, top sponsors included DelBello Donnellan Weingarten Wise & Wiederkehr, LLP, Collins Capital Partners LLC, Zarin & Steinmetz LLP, The Oram Foundation, Inc., and Hocherman, Tortorella, and Wekstein, LLP, and the Housing Action Council. You can learn more about the specific conference agenda and sponsors in the detailed 2023 Conference agenda program.

This year, the annual conference wrapped up with a Land Use Law Center 30th Anniversary Celebration Reception. Established in 1993 by Distinguished Professor of Law Emeritus John R. Nolon, this year marks 30 years since the Land Use Law Center was established. Since its inception, the LULC has remained dedicated to fostering the development of sustainable communities through the promotion of innovative land use strategies and collaborative decision-making techniques, as well as leadership training, research, education, and technical assistance. Through its many programs, the Center offers municipalities, land use leaders, citizens, advocates, planners, attorneys, real estate industry leaders, and other land use professionals assistance that enables them to achieve their development and conservation goals.  Its activities provide opportunities for students of the Elisabeth Haub School of Law at Pace University to gain in-depth, practical experience that allows them to become practice-ready attorneys serving private, public, and non-governmental clients. The Land Use Law Center is the preeminent center of its kind offering extensive research and consulting services; conferences, seminars, and clinics; law school courses; practitioner and citizen-leader training programs; continuing legal education programs; multimedia resources; and frequent publications on sustainable land use and community development.

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