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Fostering Collaborative Development in Zoning Law With Adam Baugh


Adam Baugh is a Partner at Withey Morris Baugh PLC, one of Arizona’s leading land use law firms. As a seasoned land use and zoning attorney, Adam specializes in navigating the complexities of development projects. He is adept at addressing the challenges faced by landowners and builders, often representing them in various legal scenarios, including neighborhood organizations, planning commissions, city councils, and appellate hearings. His expertise spans a range of areas, such as obtaining zoning and land use entitlements, liquor licensing, and dealing with infill development projects. Adam’s notable achievements include securing rezone approvals, stipulation changes, variances, and use permits. He also handles intricate real estate matters like easements, development agreements, and code enforcement violations, making him a trusted advisor in the realm of real estate law in Arizona.


Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn:

  • What does Withey Morris Baugh specialize in?
  • The importance of having a local attorney for land use counsel
  • How Withey Morris Baugh came about
  • Adam Baugh’s journey in the legal industry to firm ownership
  • Navigating complex development projects with neighborhood opposition
  • The best piece of advice Adam has received

In this episode…

Navigating the complex world of zoning law and community development requires a unique blend of expertise and empathy. How does one successfully bridge the gap between legal challenges and community interests?

According to Adam Baugh, a renowned land use and zoning attorney, the key lies in fostering collaborative relationships. With a deep understanding of both legal intricacies and community dynamics, Adam emphasizes the importance of working alongside neighborhood groups, local businesses, and government entities. His approach involves not just advocating for his clients but also engaging in meaningful dialogue with all stakeholders. This method helps to resolve immediate zoning issues and contributes to long-term community development and trust-building.

In this episode of 15 Minutes, Chad Franzen is joined by Adam Baugh, Partner at Withey Morris Baugh PLC, to delve into the art of zoning law and community development. They explore Adam’s unique journey to becoming a zoning law expert, his strategies for tackling opposition in public meetings, and the vital role of building quick and effective relationships. This insightful conversation sheds light on the nuances of land use law and the importance of creating win-win solutions for all parties involved.

Resources mentioned in this episode:

Sponsor for this episode…

This episode is brought to you by Gladiator Law Marketing, where we deliver tailor-made services to help you accomplish your objectives and maximize your growth potential.

To have a successful marketing campaign and make sure you’re getting the best ROI, your firm needs to have a better website and better content. At Gladiator Law Marketing, we use artificial intelligence, machine learning, and decades of experience to outperform the competition.

To learn more, go to gladiatorlawmarketing.com or schedule a free marketing consultation. You can also send an email to adam@gladiatorlawmarketing.com.

Episode Transcript

Intro  0:01  

You’re listening to 15 Minutes, where we feature community leaders sharing what the rest of us should know but likely don’t.m

Chad Franzen  0:08  

Hi. Chad Franzen here, one of the hosts of Share Your Voice where we talk with top notch law firms and lawyers about what it takes to grow a successful law practice. This episode is brought to you by Gladiator Law Marketing, delivering tailor made services to help you accomplish your objectives and maximize your growth potential. To have a successful marketing campaign and make sure you’re getting the best ROI, your firm needs to have a better website and better content. Plenty and a lot marketing uses artificial intelligence, machine learning and decades of experience to outperform the competition. To learn more, go to gladiatorlawmarketing.com where you can schedule a free marketing consultation. Adam Baugh is the MacGyver of land use and zoning. He is a problem solver with a talent for removing obstacles that impede development. Adams relationships help developers and businesses succeed in situations that seem impossible. He is a partner at Withey Morris Baugh PLC, where he has been practicing land use and zoning since 2007. Hey, Adam, thanks so much for joining me today. How are you?

Adam Baugh  1:09  

I’m doing fantastic. Thanks for inviting us on the show.

Chad Franzen  1:13  

Yeah, great to have you. Hey, so tell me a little bit more about Withey Morris Baugh and what you guys do.

Adam Baugh  1:20  

So Withey Morris Baugh is a boutique zoning and land use law firm here in Arizona, we help with its property owners, developers, small business owners work through the zoning and tenant process from hello to Steve O. And that way they can create enterprise build developments, and builds communities through our land use offerings. And at the end of day, most most cases require a vote by city council. That’s how we get them across line. And sometimes they just require some assistance with the planning director or the local development department. We essentially just problem solve so people can succeed.

Chad Franzen  1:57  

So if a business out there is looking for, you know, land use counsel, why is it why is it important to have somebody who’s kind of like, you know, local with strong local connections?

Adam Baugh  2:08  

Well, at the end of the day, you need assistance from somebody, maybe you call a beggar, maybe you can’t clean but either way, I need to go to the plan director or the mayor, and help them understand why our project makes good sense and how it can benefit the community. And it’s easier to make that pitch when it’s somebody that has established a long relationship, who’s been in the trenches with them who’s knows what it takes to help this community grow. And when it’s somebody who’s not local, they don’t really necessarily understand all the components that go into a good land use decision, or particularly to have major neighborhood opposition, helping the elected officials or the planning staff understand that despite that opposition, this is a good project. And that only can be conveyed with somebody who they have a long term relationship and history working together, where they know that what they’re saying is viable and credible.

Chad Franzen  3:02  

How and when did you know you wanted to become an attorney?

Adam Baugh  3:07  

Oh, man, I doesn’t need dentist and I went to dentists. And after that meeting, I said, Yeah, I’m never gonna be a dentist. But, you know, law school was a natural path out of out of college. And I didn’t know what type of lawyer I’d be, I had a chance to do an internship with the mayor of Phoenix. And I saw these guys come in and tell their story. And it was so charismatic and the way they portrayed the issue. And the resolution just seems so natural that I didn’t know what that was. But whatever they did what I wanted to do, and kind of enact that those are zoning attorneys. And there’s not many of us here in Arizona, there’s only a handful, but we’re so crucial because Arizona’s on the growth. And it’s one of the states where people are moving enterprises coming Everything needs some type of zoning help. But because these are political decisions, having somebody who has great connections and relationships, at the local level with elected officials, is what I thought I could do well and helped me be able to find a niche in this business. Excuse me a career that I don’t think I would have ever known about. And I’ve just been a blast to be a part of it for the last 17 years.

Chad Franzen  4:12  

Yeah, I bet what what is the what is it about? What is it most about this kind of love that you enjoy? Most people? You know, I think when you kind of like dream about becoming attorney when you picture yourself like arguing in front of a judge or whatever, jury, what is it about this type of law that you really enjoy?

Adam Baugh  4:29  

Well, first, I think I’d be a terrible attorney. If I was any other type. To be honest. I can’t imagine to sit at my desk all day long doing transactional work or being in courtrooms or organ people. What I love about is I’m building the very communities that I live in. I mean, I can, on a Saturday, drive down the street and point to a building a commercial shopping center, a neighborhood a subdivision, a hotel and say kids like this is what dad does. I helped build this thing. And because we get a chance to build our communities, the places I shop, I frequently live and it’s friends that I’ve made local chambers commerce, business owners, elected officials, for community volunteers, I’ve become some part of such a part of the community and building it. It’s fun to sort of feel like you’re giving back and very places that you live. And the other part is our entitlement cases have a lot of creativity between behind them, you can see how, what used to be just random suburbs with basic brown stucco buildings. Now, you can create design and inspiration and spaces of unique destination, it makes you want to linger a little longer in some of these places. It’s fun to be a part of that. And it’s all behind the scenes. So it’s, it’s fun to see it when it actually comes alive.

Chad Franzen  5:42  

Yeah, that’s great. How did you? You talked a little bit about it. A little bit about it. Can you expand on how you got started in the legal industry?

Adam Baugh  5:52  

Yeah, it you know, that that hasn’t been immigration law attorney, I spoke Spanish I used to teach citizenship classes when I was in grad undergraduate, I taught English as a second language. And so coming to Arizona, or law school to go be an immigration lawyer is what my plan was I spent a year volunteering at a detention center translating documents and asylum petitions and learned that I do not want to be an immigration attorney. And so you kind of have to pivot. And thankfully, I was fortunate to get that internship with the mayor of Phoenix, and then some other critical ones with city attorneys, and a government relations law firm in Las Vegas. And as I saw how these people interacted with the local officials and jurisdictions really helped me see that that’s a skill set, I have the ability to build relationships with strangers, and 30 seconds to resolve concerns, and a few minutes, and to create relationships of trust, to help secure a result are things that I felt like were skill sets, I do well, didn’t know that there was a law that could align with those skill sets. But it is and for last 10 years, we have been doing those things. We have never meetings where people are hostile planning commission meetings where commissioners are against the proposal or even elected officials who run on campaigns against Parliament’s, at the end day, we’re able to find common grounds and help them see the benefits and the reasons why it should be supported. I think that all just is an exercise in relationship building, and finding a win win for everybody. And I think it’s something we’ve done well, and as a result, that’s an area of law that I’ve enjoyed doing, and not one that they teach this in law school, but it’s one that’s been very successful for us here in Arizona.

Chad Franzen  7:31  

Yeah, great. So you had an internship with the mayor of Phoenix? How did? Why would I keep wanting to call YZ with the Morris ball come about?

Adam Baugh  7:41  

So Mike Withey, and Jason Morris were the founding partners in the law firm, both came from large law firms and realize that they don’t like working in large law firms. And the ability to kind of create their own destiny was what they want to do. I was a law student that graduated 2006 looking for a job and after kind of getting a taste of a zoning law firm is I went around and started talking to every zoning law lawyer in town and convinced these guys to let me work for free. And after a few months, if, by the way, they said no, we’ll pay you 25 bucks an hour, but I was willing to bet on myself. And after a few months, I got offered a job somewhere else. And I went to Mike Withey. And Mike, I’ve enjoyed these products of Dorthea. And if there’s opportunity to work with you, then I’ll pass on this one. And I’ll wait until that time comes. And if not, let me know. And I’ll move forward. And he say give me 24 hours. And I came back he came back the next day. And he said, What do you want to start. And that was at the end of 2006. And at the time, I was just a junior associate of a boutique law firm and eventually became a partner seven years later. And owner 10 years later, and now own the firm about 15 years later. So it’s been a treat to kind of grow up the ranks where I beg, pleaded and con my window job to now run the firm and teaching and mentoring the people that hope will be the next generation to take us over.

Chad Franzen  9:02  

So what kind of things did you do when you you know, you told him you would work for free and he paid you $25 an hour? What kind of things did you do? To start out?

Adam Baugh  9:10  

Yeah, well, I could say that because I had a job that was an immigration attorney, job and my controller national. So I could work from 6am to two or 3pm and my real job and then come and work for him from two to five or six 7pm. And in this capacity and because our the nature of our business is public hearings at nighttime neighborhood meeting at nighttime. It was easy for me to kind of do both and time. So I did a lot of little research projects, memos attending public hearings. I wish I could say I did something of significance and importance, but I think for the most part, I was probably a probationary period to convince him that I was worth taking a chance on and it worked out. And I think he’s able to show that there is room for a young guy to succeed in this space. If he’s hungry, he’s got grit, and if he’s likable, and in our business, those are some key traits to succeed.

Chad Franzen  10:02  

Yeah, I mean, when you go from, you know, guy who’s begging for a job willing to work for free to now owning the firm, I’m sure there’s some, you know, big moments or milestones maybe along the way, are there are there any that come to the come to the top of your head that you’re most proud of?

Adam Baugh  10:19  

Yeah, there’s a few, you know, most of the guys in our industry or guys and gals lived here grew up here went to school here. And so they have this natural connection and relationships that help them succeed. I didn’t, I grew up in Southern California to sort of come to Arizona, at 26.3, I can’t remember how old I was. And to begin to form those relations was tough. But I remember, some of the first times when I started getting my own phone calls to help people with the cases they were small stuff, maybe it was to help someone with a variance or property violation, or a really small rezone for like an auto body shop. But I should those calls started come in a little bit more. And while I couldn’t see myself at the type of level that my partners were, then you could feel the momentum start to build. And then a few more calls, and a few more clients would start to get around and architects and engineers would say, Hey, this guy did a really good job on this case. And it became to be more of a recognition of the successes and the way to kind of maneuver that process. People started calling more and more, you felt the confidence. So when a real tough case came in, you knew you could do it. Because you’ve done versions of this several times before. I remember having a case that was for a large furniture store, who was located in Arizona for the first time, but had a huge market share in the Mountain West. And it requires not only to get the necessary votes to prove it, but in an expedient amount of time. And trying to figure out how to convince the city now to say yes, but to expedite permits, and to give development agreement incentives to make this possible, while at the same time recognizing the issues that you’re going to have with some of the neighborhoods around you. It was like performing surgery, very tactical, very precise, and had to be well executed. But once we got done finishing it, looking back, I remember thinking that I was able to do something amazing. If I could do this, I could probably be okay in this business. And there’s, there’s a few of those moments like that, where it gives you the confidence that you can succeed. When you don’t feel like you’re at the par level with some of the people that you look up to and respect.

Chad Franzen  12:27  

When you go into like, like one of these public meetings. And let’s say that you you work with a client that you’re really, you know, happy to be working with, but there’s a lot of maybe opposition for them to move in to the, to the neighborhood or to, you know, to that area or whatever, just because for whatever reason. What’s your goal in the end? Like, is it just to make sure that your client gets what he what he or she wants? Or do you are you trying to work with everybody? What do you try to do?

Adam Baugh  12:55  

It’s great question. People hire me because everything is hard. Everybody hates your cases, when there’s neighbors involved, and it’s why have a job to be honest. And so it’s normal customary for me to deal with neighborhood opposition, most people don’t like to see the status quo change. And what they’ll see with time, after projects, entitled and and built, that’s actually not what they projected their worst fears never come true. And they end up becoming supporters, shoppers, customers or residents of the place. But in my mind, you have to find ways to work together. I don’t want to be a bulldozer, that might succeed one time. But after that you’re getting a reputation of being a bulldozer and elected officials want to get reelected. They want to be able to say I appreciate the developer work the neighbors that they worked together on the final solution. And because they reached that solution, that counselor can simply endorse it right and have to excite booty like, it’s not always that easy. But I’ve always found that work, King collaborative neighbors is really the best way it doesn’t mean that they get it, they get everything, it doesn’t mean that I get everything, but helping them see the benefits of it. And areas that we can work on to improve our plan is really how you make good community decisions. And people hire me because I’ve been in one spot and they found out so I’m gonna come back the second and third time in a nearby area. So if I just ramrod something through, it would be hard for me to come back the second third time and still deliver when so find ways to create mutual wins for us, the neighbors and the politicians is the way we find long term success.

Chad Franzen  14:26  

You mentioned that you were you were pretty skilled at developing relationships pretty quickly. Is there like like a key to that? Is it just who you are? Or were you just kind of born that way?

Adam Baugh  14:37  

Oh, I think some some of those things are inherent with who we are as individuals and some of the things are taught but you know, I was a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints when I was 19, 20, 21 sent to a place that I had no idea how to learn a foreign language didn’t know and here’s this white guy living in a culture of people who looked nothing like him and meaning and strangers and trying to proselyte like gospel, when they know nothing about you and probably have every reason to distrust you, you have to find ways to find common commonalities. And those skill sets of finding commonalities and building relationships of trust and showing empathy and listening and responding to questions. Those are all skill sets that translate so well into my business. But if I was a salesman, who could probably be the same thing, I mean, truthfully, these are, I think, skills and abilities that can’t be taught can be inherent, but need to be refined and perfected. And it’s one of the ways that I’ve been able to succeed because it’s such a critical part of our practice. I never thought that knocking doors as a 19 year old would help me as a 44 year old attorney, but it did.

Chad Franzen  15:46  

Yeah, it probably helps you, you know, kind of not worry about what people think or not, not be not be scared off by objection and things like that.

Adam Baugh  15:55  

Yeah, yeah, I did. And it’s kind of funny, because after that, I was able to go do door to door sales as a pest control as a summers in between colleges. And just a lot of experience with strangers, helping them understand why something makes good sense when that first date, or opposes related skills translate well into my law practice. And it’s one way to deal with neighbors, and we deal with politicians on the benefits of a project and mixed use development, new industrial, business park or shopping center, there’s always some hesitation in the beginning and helping them see the value of it, and why it makes good sense and how they can really benefit from it is what we do for a living.

Chad Franzen  16:34  

So now as owner at Withey Morris Baugh, what are what are a few of, of your daily kind of rituals that you find most important? What’s a typical day for you.

Adam Baugh  16:45  

My dad has to start out with exercise, if I can go out and run bike or go to the gym, just to feel like I’m in a funk. My mental clarity starts right in the morning, I can think through what my day is gonna look like, particular meetings are going to have how I’m going to handle it items and eat. And that all happens while I’m in on a bike or on a run. I love the way that helps me prepare for my day. The moment I wake up, I’m already preparing for my cases, emails and phone calls, reaching out to staff and I’ll do a meetings in the morning with my team to make sure what are the greatest parties we have every day? What are the exhibits that we need for the neighbor meetings who the politicians that we’re seeing. And I feel like sometimes I’m sort of a firefighter or I’m just putting out fires today. And other times I feel like I’m a fire preventative firefighter where there’s no fires, but I’m installing smoke alarms and fire breaks and advance issues coming to head. So that’s what we do for a living. And that’s how I best plan out my day.

Chad Franzen  17:52  

Great. Hey, I have one more question for you. But first, how can people find out more about Withey Morris Baugh?

Adam Baugh  17:58  

Well, obviously, we have a website, it’s wmbattorneys.com. But what’s been really fun for us last few years is we created a podcast called Dirt to Development. And it’s the story of how the commercial shopping centers are the places you live. And the background behind them the story behind the people, the personalities, the politics that a lot of people don’t see. And the stories behind them need to be told. And so that’s a good way to find us learn about what we do, how we help people to do the process. And of course on LinkedIn as well. Adam Baugh.

Chad Franzen  18:29  

What’s your podcast called again? Sorry?

Adam Baugh  18:32  

It’s called Dirt to Development.

Chad Franzen  18:36  

Okay, great. Hey, last question for you. What is the best or worst piece of advice you’ve ever received? If you can think of it?

Adam Baugh  18:42  

Yeah, for sure. I know is a phrase fake it till you make it. It’s not that’s not the best advice. But I do remember distinctly, distinctly a time when a business partner sat me down, he said, you know, people want to have confidence in you. And the best thing you can do is to convey the comments that you have the ability to succeed here. If you give them that confidence, then you have the time to go solve it and figure out how to do it. And it was so true. Because when I look weak, when I look like I don’t know what I’m doing, it’s seized upon by the neighbors, by politician driven or client. If you can convey that confidence that you know that you can do this, and that you’ve done this and that you have a way forward, you can create a game plan. It sort of manifest that that’s the actual outcome that will be so it was great advice I got pretty early with within the first few months. And it’s one of the ways that I’ve really led my practice people come to me and say, You know what, we can tell you help me out. And then when the meeting I’ll go over that plastic. I’ve never done one of these before, but we’ll figure it out. Let’s go get it done. And it’s been successful this time.

Chad Franzen  19:52  

Very nice. Awesome. Thanks for sharing that. Hey, Adam. It’s been great to talk to you. Thank you so much. Really appreciate your time today.

Adam Baugh  19:58  

Thank you for having me on the show. It’s been a delight.

Chad Franzen  20:00  

So long everybody.

Outro  20:04  

Thanks for listening to 15 Minutes. Be sure to subscribe and we’ll see you next time.

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