Why is the planning phase the most important part of the land development process?

Because in it you will establish the groundwork, research and development strategy that will carry the project through the design, permitting and construction phases—to the goal. The look, feel and characteristics of the project are established in the land use plan. This is established by matching the goals and objectives of the project in relationship to the physical, regulatory and financial constraints of the property and the project.

Have you ever cut costs or design phase time by cutting the planning phase…only to have it bite you with longer-than-expected permitting cycles and construction change orders?

Land planning requires your Orlando Civil Engineer to fulfill the following:

  1. Develop an accurate boundary, topographical and tree survey.
  2. Determine physical constraints with regard to on-site characteristics, characteristics of adjacent properties, wetlands, drainage basin and elevations.
  3. Determine the characteristics of the on-site soils.
  4. Research existing utilities and transportation and confirm that there is sufficient capacity for the project.
  5. Research site land use and zoning codes to determine requirements of building setbacks, landscape buffers, floor area ratios, parking, traffic and vehicular circulation.
  6. Research drainage basin hydrology and specific requirements for stormwater management.

Once you fulfill these steps, you will have the information necessary to develop a comprehensive preliminary Land Use Plan. This will be a land use plan that maximizes the use of the property relative to the goals and objectives of the overall project, meets code requirements and makes economic sense.

Think about it. Once the land use plan (especially on larger projects) is approved it is costly and time consuming to change it. Ignoring it will leave you with a less than optimal project.

Once the preliminary land use plan has been developed, the next step in the land planning process is to meet with the regulators. You will want to meet with the regulators because it will mean the difference between a long and a short permitting cycle. Ignoring this will cost you time and money in the long run. A permit is a negotiated agreement between the regulatory agency and the land developer. It is not as cut and dry as it seems. Codes and rules are interpreted by the reviewer. Both parties need to be on the same page from the get go.

So…doesn’t it make sense to meet with the people that will be reviewing the project to obtain their feedback and buy-in to the concept?

In the Orlando and Central Florida areas there are various agencies that will issue a permit on a civil engineering project. These include:

  • Water Management Districts
  • St. Johns River Water Management District (SJRWMD)
  • Southwest Florida Water Management District (SWFWMD)
  • South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD)
  • Local County or City
  • Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP)
  • Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT)
  • US Army Corps of Engineers

Of these regulatory agencies, the most predominant ones in permitting a civil engineering project in Orlando, Florida are the water management districts and the local municipalities.However, the other agencies come into play depending on the location of the property and “environmental engineering” characteristics.

If the property is adjacent to an FDOT roadway or drains through an FDOT roadway, then permits from FDOT will be necessary. Likewise, a property that has on-site wetlands or causes impacts to on-site or off-site wetlands will need to deal with the US Army Corps of Engineers. Most projects will require a permit from the FDEP for construction of the water and sewer utilities; however, this is generally minor compared to the others.

So as you can imagine, it is not unusual for you to need at least 3 permits for a typical project to more than 6 permits for a more complicated one.

In order to have a successful land development project, your Orlando Civil Engineer needs to develop a good land use plan which starts off with a comprehensive land use plan and is coordinated with the relevant regulatory agencies. This will guarantee that you will have a smooth and expedient design and permitting process, and that your construction costs will be minimized.

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