Politically Oriented Advocacy

CEDS politically oriented advocacy is the most successful and least expensive strategy for protecting neighborhoods and the environment from a wide variety of potential threats ranging from proposed development to a landfill expansion.  Politically oriented advocacy consists of:

  1. Searching for an Equitable Solution that resolves the threat to you and your neighbors while allowing the project applicant to achieve most of their goals,
  2. Seeking agreement with the applicant or regulatory agencies to implement your Equitable Solution.
  3. If a project is so severely flawed that an Equitable Solution isn’t available or the applicant-agencies refuse to implement it, then identify elected officials who have the authority to either force implementation or to prevent project approval, then
  4. Mobilize the voter support needed to prompt elected officials to act.

Politically oriented advocacy is a far superior to the conventional approach of hiring an attorney to block a key permit or other approval.  To see examples of the many victories won with the CEDS politically oriented advocacy approach visit our Successes wegpage.  To discuss whether politically oriented advocacy is the best option for the project threatening you and your neighbors, contact CEDS at 410-654-3021 (call-text) or Help@ceds.org for an initial no-cost discussion.


For more then 30 years CEDS has been helping people win land use and environmental battles throughout the U.S.  This experience has allowed CEDS to come up with a new approach which we call Politically Oriented Advocacy. We know from our own experience that this approach will:

  • Triple the success rate of citizens seeking to resolve specific concerns through Equitable Solutions;
  • Increase the likelihood of stopping a truly bad development project by ten-fold;
  • Correct defects in existing growth-management programs/laws so future projects are less likely to cause the same impacts;
  • Expand the membership and active volunteer ranks of the citizen group leading the effort to protect a neighborhood or the environment from a development proposal;
  • Increase the number of voters who are knowledgeable about and willing to provide the support needed to improve growth-management and environmental-protection programs;
  • Prompt more good people to run for seats on planning commissions, school boards, town-county councils, board of supervisors, etc.; and
  • Politically Oriented Advocacy achieves all this at a fraction of the cost (in dollars, stress, and hours) when compared to the conventional Hire a lawyer to stop the project approach.


Following is a brief, simplified description of the four steps which compose Politically Oriented Advocacy.

Seek Equitable Solutions

Perhaps 90% or more of development impacts can be resolved by modifying project plans in ways that fully resolve citizen concerns yet allow the applicant to get most of what they want. Following is an example of an Equitable Solution:

  • A developer proposes to convert a residential dead-end street into a through-road,
  • The residents find an alternative which eliminates the need for this action or win measures that greatly reduce cut-through traffic volume, then
  • The alternative can be implemented without causing more then a small decrease in the number of housing units or commercial floor-space.

This is an Equitable Solution. For further detail visit: Equitable Solutions.

Aggressively Negotiate

The negotiations are between citizens and the applicant and/or a government agency. For the applicant, the question of whether to settle with citizens comes down to this:

Will it cost me more to do what citizens want compared to the expense of fighting them?

If the fight will be more expensive then settlement usually follows, particularly if the applicant believes citizens are mobilizing the resources needed to fight a long political-legal campaign. Most government agencies are used to negotiating with applicants and citizens to resolve issues. It’s easier to get an agency to compel an applicant to implement a genuine equitable solution compared to convincing them to stop the project. Of course the agency must have the legal authority to compel the applicant to implement the solution. But this usually isn’t a problem. If it is then Political Action First will substantially increase the probability that the agency and the applicant will find a way to satisfy citizen concerns.

Political Action First

Citizens tend to have the advantage in a political arena while applicants are more likely to prevail in a legal proceeding. Most of the impacts which prompt citizens to fight a development project reflect some defect in the growth-management process. Each defect provides an opportunity to win the support of other voters and citizen groups who are (or could be) harmed by the same defect. Usually the defect can be resolved through a change in policy or law. The change could be made by an appointed government official, like an agency head, or by convincing elected officials to change the law. To bring about this change citizens must mount an aggressive campaign to mobilize an ever-increasing number of voters to lobby appointed or elected officials to change a policy or the law. As the campaign progresses it is likely citizens will create the critical amount of pressure needed to force officials to act. A political success provides many benefits beyond winning a single development battle.

Smart Legal Strategies

Each development project may require a dozen or more approvals (rezoning, special exception, conditional use permit, waiver, variance, wetland permit, etc.). The goal of legal action is either to: a) require implementation of an equitable solution as a condition of an approval, or b) stop a truly bad project by blocking the issuance of an approval.

The first step in Smart Legal Strategies is to identify all required approvals then research each to determine which provides the best opportunity for success. While this may seem like common sense few novice advocates and inexperienced attorneys perform this research. Below, in A Brief How To, you’ll learn where to find instructions for this easy to perform research. We urge you NOT to hire an attorney before completing the research.


Because you won’t know what type of attorney you need – land use, zoning, environmental, etc. – until you’ve done this research. More importantly, you won’t have the background needed to interview prospective attorneys (we urge you to screen at least three) to learn which is likely to provide the best representation and how to keep legal fees at a minimum without lowering the probability of success. For further detail on this approach click the following text: Smart Legal Strategies.


An introduction to finding equitable solutions and the other three steps of Politically Oriented Advocacy can be found in Chapters 1 and 2 of the free, 300-page CEDS book How To Win land Development Issues.  Chapters 3 through 26 address the specific impacts most likely to cause concern among nearby residents and other citizens. These chapters also contain suggestions for possible Equitable Solutions. Chapter 35 explains how to research which political and legal strategies are most likely to result in victory. Chapters 37 and 39 contain advice on Aggressive Negotiation. Suggestions regarding Political Action First is presented in Chapters 36, 39, 41, and 42. Refer to Chapter 40 for Smart Legal Action.  See our Mobilizing Public Support for Preserving Neighborhoods webpage for quickly demonstrating that that many of your neighbors want action.


CEDS offers several no-cost forms of assistance to those seeking to protect their neighborhood or the environment from development impacts.

First, if you have a copy of project plans then email them to us along with a description of your concerns. We’ll do a quick, initial review of the plans to identify both potential impacts and possible equitable solutions.

Second, we can conduct a strategy session by phone with you and your allies to discuss the project and how to employ Politically Oriented Advocacy to resolve your concerns.

Third, we would be delighted to try and answer specific questions free of charge by phone, provided we don’t need to do any research.

Again, this assistance is offered free to those seeking to protect their neighborhood or the environment from development impacts. Just give us a call at 410-654-3021 or e-mail us at: Help@ceds.org. Besides our 300-page book you’ll also find other free publications and information on our publications webpage.

About two-thirds of the citizens we help take our free assistance and run with the campaign on their own. The other third hire us to manage a portion or all of their campaign. This is how we make the funds needed to stay in business. So if you feel that winning a development battle requires more time then you can spare, give us a call to discuss the cost of having CEDS take over the more difficult or time-consuming aspects of the campaign.

If you’re uncertain how to get a campaign started then consider retaining CEDS to conduct an Initial Strategy Analysis which costs $1,000.