Opinion—Real Estate Developers Increase Profits by Embracing Regulations Instead of Fighting Them

Jul 25, 2018

By Don Wallis


Developers are helping restore the vitality of the Chesapeake Bay.

The construction industry devotes considerable time and expense fighting to limit environmental regulations that prevent builders and developers from making a profit. This has become the norm between our industry and government on all levels.

It is a less than ideal situation for both the contractors and environmentalists.

Real estate building [companies] along the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries are taking a different approach to environmental regulation.

They are embracing it. The result is, surprisingly, greater profits.

Lara Korte, in an article in THE WALL STREET JOURNAL, outlines how builders are working to “find ways to adapt to wave[s] of new regulations designed to protect watersheds.”

A large housing project by Elm Street Development along one of the Bay’s tributaries is a prime example. “Developers of such projects typically maximize the sales value of waterfront homes by building as close as possible to the water’s edge. But Elm Street’s project had to comply with environmental rules enacted by the state in recent years to save the Chesapeake Bay from ecological disaster.

Elm Street’s solution was to stagger homes closer and further away from the waterfront, with no home being closer than 1,000 feet. That preserved the natural vegetation that acts as a natural filter for storm water runoff.”

“’What we’ve tried to do at our company, and my team in Maryland, is to try and not fight the regulations as much, but embrace them and then capitalize on them,’ said Karen McJunkin, regional partner at Elm Street in McLean, Va.”

Other builders are taking the same approach and reaping similar financial benefits. “Some developers view the changes as a positive marketing point, especially for millennial buyers who are looking for eco-friendly properties.”

Even though the Trump administration is eliminating some of the most onerous EPA rulings, environmental regulations are here to stay. Adapting business practices to profit from these regulations makes good business sense.


Developers Go With Flow on Water Rules, Lara Korte, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL, July 11, 2018.

Don Wallis has more than 40 years experience in residential and commercial construction, and land development. He also has a law degree and currently teaches Environmental Law at Santa Fe Community College.