Sahn Ward Coschignano, PLLC September 2019 E-Newsletter
Q&A Chris

What are your responsibilities as a Member and Partner who also leads the Firm’s Zoning and Land Use practice?

My responsibilities as one of the Partners who leads the Firm’s zoning and land use practice, and as an equity Partner (or owner), is to bring in business to the Firm; help supervise and manage the Firm; and to assist the lawyers and staff at the Firm to carry out their duties and responsibilities, in properly and effectively representing our clients.

What is the key to success in handling some of the most complex zoning and land use planning projects on Long Island?

The key to all projects is hard work, dedication and focus on behalf of the clients. All lawyers must represent their clients properly and that can only be accomplished with the appropriate legwork and fundamental belief in the project. In other words, the only way you get a successful outcome is with the appropriate amount of work that you put into the project.

What trends are you currently seeing in zoning and land use planning projects on Long Island?

Planning and zoning is a difficult topic on Long Island. It may be one of the toughest places in the country to complete projects, especially with regards to the timeframe for finishing a project, and the investments that owners and developers have to make. With that said, the most common trends that I see are in multifamily housing and senior and assisted living developments. The biggest challenges are the mindset of the communities on Long Island as to what types of projects they will accept, and the length of time it takes to get a project done.

What advice would you give a lawyer who is just starting out and is interested in the practice area of zoning and land use?

Zoning and land use is definitely a specialty area, and I personally find it interesting and rewarding. I believe that any firm could handle this practice area, but the more successful firms tend to specialize in it, and there aren’t that many firms in our field in comparison to other areas of law. So, if someone wants to enter this area of law, I would advise them to select a firm, much like our firm, that concentrates in land use and zoning, because it will allow them to experience a wide array of projects.

What attracted you to serving in various municipal capacities throughout your career? How did you get your start in serving such positions?

For me, there is one consistent theme when being involved in charitable organizations and nonprofits, being an attorney, and serving as an elected official or in government, generally. That theme is a desire to serve and help others. It’s all rooted in the positive impact you can have on those around you and on your community. My involvement in politics evolved from assisting other people I knew serve in various capacities in government. I found this to be very interesting and I wanted to take that aspect of service to a higher level and, in my life, that became the government and elective office level. I have been very fortunate and continue to be fortunate that I have spent over 25 years working and serving in government.

What were some of the greatest challenges and rewards during your service as a Councilman with the Town of Oyster Bay?

The general rewards always came from helping people. Seeing people receive the assistance they need on an individual basis, and for your community, was the best reward I could ask for and was the most satisfying accomplishment. However, getting your neighbors and your community what they should be entitled to, as a resident and a taxpayer, was also the biggest challenge. It always requires measuring the benefits for your community against the costs of running a government. Thus, the cost-benefit analysis is the biggest challenge for a government in providing appropriate services at a reasonable cost.

Of all the professional and governmental positions you have held, which has been the most challenging and rewarding?

All of the positions have had different challenges and; in different ways, all of those positions are equally rewarding. For me, they’re all rooted in helping people on different levels, and I believe my background as an attorney is the biggest factor that opened all the doors to get me involved in those positions. So, regardless of the challenges and rewards each position has, the backbone of that was always in that I became a lawyer first.

What advice would you give a lawyer who is interested in being elected to municipal positions in their community?

I would give the advice that I was fortunate to receive myself, which is to always continue being a lawyer, at least 51 percent; be independent; and let your education as a lawyer and ethics as an individual guide you in any government position.

How are you able to maintain a balance among your practice, family life and serving the community?

Fortunately, for my personal life, serving the community in public office ended a couple of years ago, which enables me to enjoy my family time more. For me now, it is family, religion and my profession, and then, when the kids are older, we can give back more to the community again.

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