Zoning and Land Use

When Development Is Done Right - Everyone Wins

JustLaws is an innovative social impact law firm launched in October 2012 by veteran community lawyer Steve Masters. We know how to navigate the political and legal landscape of Philadelphia to obtain broad public support and zoning board approval for your zoning project.

That’s why community oriented developers are turning to JustLaws for their zoning and community development legal needs. 

Photo of Steve Masters, ESQJustLaws Founder Steve Masters: A Distinguished Record of Community Service

When you choose a lawyer for your zoning needs, you want someone with a distinguished record of public service, a lawyer who has always placed the community’s interests first.

  • Steve served twelve years as a Philadelphia City Council lawyer where he specialized in helping community groups throughout the City protect and improve their neighborhood’s quality of life.
  • Steve designed and staffed City Council’s city-wide and local nuisance business task forces where community leaders worked hand in hand with elected officials and City and State law enforcement agencies to eliminate vexing quality of life issues like nuisance Stop-N-Gos and night clubs.
  • Steve also pioneered the use of community benefits agreements with take-out beer licenses, turning many nuisance beer sellers into responsible businesses.
  • His efforts were recognized by State Representative Cherelle Parker, who awarded Steve a Dedicated Community Service Award in 2007.

The JustLaws Advantage: Unparalleled Zoning Experience Combined With a Winning Track Record

Commitment to community isn’t enough to prevail in court – you need real expertise that comes from years of experience.

Steve served as Council President Anna Verna’s zoning lawyer for over ten years, helping developers and concerned community groups settle their differences and reach community benefits agreements that stood the test of time. When negotiated solutions weren't possible, Steve turned to the courts to win decisive legal victories for his clients.

Steve’s legal victories while at City Council included:

  • Going all the way to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to force Nextel and Comcast to remove an illegal and extremely ugly cell phone tower inches away from a row home with young children.
  • Stopping the Forum XXX Theater (located a block away from two public schools and next to several high-rise condominiums) from doubling in size and adding live sex shows.
  • Helping to broker the settlement between the City, neighborhood groups and CSX Railroad that stopped CSX from blocking access to the Schuylkill River Trail and secure unlimited public access to the trail.
  • Forcing a condomium developer to abandon plans to purchase an abandoned center city public school and instead allow a renowned charter school to purchase the property and create another quality public school option for center city families.
  • Negotiating a comprehensive community benefits agreement between the developer of the concert venue Union Transfer and community groups from two diverse neighborhoods that ensured Union Transfer's success while preserving the surrounding community's quality of life.

Since launching JustLaws in October 2012, Steve has continued to score major legal victories for his clients:

  • Councilwoman Cherelle Parker turned to JustLaws to draft her new legislation requiring a project information form for most new developments in the City. She chose us for our expertise with both the zoning code and with how to craft legislation to earn the support of all key stakeholders. The result was legislation that achieved a balance between the needs of the community and the needs of developers.  A real win/win.
  • Developers of a new brewpub in Fairmount were refused a zoning permit by L+I in a CMX-2 district because L+I classified their brewery as heavy industrial. Seasoned zoning attorneys at a large law firm were unable to convince L+I to change their interpretation of the Zoning Code, so the developer turned to JustLaws for assistance.  JustLaws successfully persuaded L+I to reverse its interpretation of Brewpubs not just in this instance but across the board. L+I reversed its denial and issued the zoning permit to our client as of right, saving the client the expense, delay and uncertainty of an appeal to the Zoning Board of Adjustment.
  • A brand new RCO, Progressive Communities CDC, was shocked to discover that a developer had included three vacant City-owned properties in their major development project when those very same lots had been promised to the RCO. They feared that their plans to develop a mosque and community center would never be realized. After they hired JustLaws, Progressive was able to win a major settlement with the Developer. The settlement includes the Developer’s support for the City transferring those three vacant properties and two others to Progressive, a major role for Progressive in guaranteeing that the project will employ 50% minority contractors and local residents and a significant financial contribution to Progressive to build their economic development capacity. 

Contact JustLaws today to discuss adding an experienced community oriented zoning lawyer to help you achieve your zoning goals at 484.483.3344 or send Steve an email at steve@justlaws.org