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Just Damn Good Architecture

Benefits of a Preliminary Zoning Analysis

Our clients continue to tell us that permitting and approvals processes are getting slower, regardless of region or municipality. Many of the new developments breaking ground this year were first submitted for review up to two years ago. Since time is money, developers should use preliminary zoning analyses to help speed things up.

One of the easiest ways to get a head start on approvals is by performing a preliminary zoning analysis. The particular regulations and ordinances that govern your jurisdiction are publicly available, so get your hands on them early. If your team doesn’t have intimate knowledge of these codes where your project is located, partner with someone who does. This minimal investment up front can potentially shave weeks and months off the total approval time frame for your project.

Most regulations include specific guidelines for common development considerations, like density, lot size, setbacks, minimum heights, parking and retention requirements. Although builders are quite familiar with these, expert review may pinpoint key areas to analyze more fully. They can identify nuances in language and interpretation that might turn the most basic regulations into complex problems that require replotting and redesign, which would add considerable time to the project.

Many properties also deal with specific restrictions arising from a variety of sources:

  • Historical Commissions
  • Fire Districts
  • Wetlands
  • Overlay Districts
  • Registered Easements
  • Utility Easements

It’s usually necessary to find experts who can help navigate the myriad issues these restrictions might cause. Enlisting their assistance earlier can pay huge dividends down the road.

All developers will need to conduct a zoning analysis at some point during the approvals process. By starting early with a preliminary assessment, your project team will be armed with crucial information that has the potential to greatly reduce the time from submittal to approval. In an industry where project timelines can span multiple years, a month’s difference can have a huge impact on project profitability.

Additional Discussion

Zoning can get complicated; and if it’s not done correctly, it can completely derail a project. We’re not alone in emphasizing the importance of Preliminary Zoning Analysis – Builder recently posted an article on the topic, sharing the potential challenges to not taking these critical steps.

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