Understanding Community Benefit Agreements: Opportunities and Traps for Developers, Municipalities and Community Organizations
19 Pages Posted: 5 Nov 2007
Date Written: October 29, 2007
A Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) is a private contract negotiated between a prospective developer and community representatives. In essence, the CBA specifies the benefits that the developer will provide to the community in exchange for the community's support of its proposed development. The validity and enforceability of CBAs has yet to be tested in court, but some have expressed concerns that the agreements will not hold up. Chief among the questions as to the validity of CBAs is whether community groups provide any real consideration for these contracts. Questions have also been raised as to who can enforce a CBA's provisions. Enforceability questions may also concern which parties are bound by developers' promises. Because the process of negotiating CBAs often involves local governments or elected officials, CBAs may also raise legal issues related to the propriety of planning process. While CBAs represent an opportunity to accomplish redevelopment projects in a manner that achieves social equity and engages all community stakeholders in the project with an eye towards designing a process and product that can be win-win for communities, myriad legal issues are present for all involved participants. This paper provides an overview of legal and policy implications of CBAs, highlighting how this new tool is currently utilized in a number of communities across the country.
Keywords: community benefit agreements, social equity, community development
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