Property Development - What’s An Entitlement And Why Do I Need It To Build?

What is An Entitlement? The definition of entitlement with regard to land development is the legal method of obtaining approvals for the right to develop property for a particular use.

The entitlement process is complicated, time consuming and can be costly, but know what you can and can’t do with a piece of property is vital to determining the real estate feasibility of your project. Some examples of entitlements are as follows:

Entitlement Examples:

•Road approvals. Do you need to put in existing roads? Who maintains the roads? Are there shared roads via easements? These are all questions that you need to have the answers to and be prepared to comply with in the regulatory process.

•Utility approvals. Are utilities available to the site? Do you need to donate land to the city in exchange for utility entitlements? Again, you will need to comply with the municipality regulations and standards.

•Landscaping approvals. The city planning and development agencies must also approve your design and landscaping. Your architect and engineers will be most helpful in this area.

Hire an Experienced Development Team:

The best advise is to hire an experienced development team of architects, developers, lawyers, project consultants, civil, soil, landscape and structural engineers and consultants at the onset to help you analyze, review, interpret and advise you regarding design studies, applicable zoning and code requirements, and maximum development potential of the property. Without an experienced team, it is extremely difficult and a lot of time will be wasted in trying to complete the regulatory process because the very nature of the regulatory process is so complicated.

Here is how the process works. First, remember to keep in mind that the process is very slow and frustrating and can take approximately 3 to 12 months or sometimes years depending on how complicated the project is. Part of the reason is that each city planner has different interpretations of their local rules. Today, approvals involve jurisdictions overlapping such as city, county and state and these jurisdictions do not communicate with each other. It is extremely crucial that you establish good working relationships with these planners to obtain your approvals.

Regulatory Process:

Majority of development projects must go through certain aspects of the property or land use entitlement process and some projects will be required to go through several public hearing processes for approval depending on each jurisdiction’s rules. To begin, commercial development of land requires a review and approval from the local Development Review Board or Planning Department Review Division. Each municipality has a different name but the functions are similar.

The process starts with obtaining site approval from the local Planning and Development Department. By contacting the local Planning and Development Department Review Division, your expert team will then put together an entitlement pre-application which complies with the codes of that particular jurisdiction.
If for some reason your site plan is denied, you can appeal to the City Council. The appeal process varies from each jurisdiction.

Your development team will be instrumental in advising and assisting you so that you have a higher probability of achieving success in obtaining neighborhood approval. Be prepared, even if you comply with the regulatory process codes and regulations, there is always the possibility that the neighborhood may have their own agenda and that the hearings and decisions may not be favorable to your project going forward. This is where your attorneys and the rest of your development team’s expertise and participation are crucial.

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