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The Land Entitlement Process: What You Need to Know
The Land Entitlement Process: What You Need to Know

As Austin Engineering has already emphasized in previous articles, land or site entitlement is a crucial step in the land development process. Understanding what land entitlement entails will be helpful to your site planning and give you a better timeline for when you should expect construction to begin. However, fair warning: land entitlement is complex and sometimes takes years to complete. Thankfully, Austin Engineering has helped dozens of clients complete the land entitlement process, and we can also provide guidance for you!

A Refresher for Land Entitlement

As a reminder, land entitlement is the legal process a developer undergoes to acquire all necessary approvals for constructing a property. Much of the work for land entitlement is done in conjunction with the local governing authority or municipality. These organizations designate what building or site requirements are necessary and whether exceptions can be considered for a project. Land entitlement for a project is essential, as it determines the entire direction construction can take and can sometimes “make or break” a project before it begins.

Considerations Under Land Entitlement

In truth, land entitlement isn’t just one legal process; it’s several, each contending with different aspects of construction. For some sites, zoning must be considered. Other projects might require additional utility permits or zoning variances, depending on what’s being constructed. Austin Engineering assists clients in navigating complicated approval processes for all required permits, environmental regulations, and building codes.

Site Plan Approval

Before contending with individual issues related to a construction site, a site plan must be submitted to city or county officials for approval. A complete site plan will include sketches and designs that outline building construction, utility access, stormwater management, landscape features, etc. Your site plan will typically undergo several iterations as more due diligence is performed for a site and city officials’ recommendations are incorporated into your submittal. Once approved, the real work for your site can begin!

Zoning & Rezoning

Dependent on a parcel of land’s location, its proximity to residential, commercial or industrial construction, and the features/functions of the property, it’s assigned a density and type of development, otherwise known as zoning. Zoning is a land use concept that helps local city ordinances designate the best potential uses for a piece of land. Ideally, whatever property you’re working with will be zoned according to what you wish to construct. However, if zoning is mismatched or nonexistent, Austin Engineering can assist with rezoning. Keep in mind the zoning process can be complicated and prohibitive, taking as much as six months to a year to complete successfully.

Variances & Conditional Use Permits

One alternative to rezoning is to seek a zoning variance or conditional use permit from the appropriate city governing bodies. Rather than completely rezoning land to meet specific standards, land developers can request a waiver from specific portions of a municipality’s zoning code. In public hearings with city officials, Austin Engineering will establish a case for why your project is unique and requires a special variance. A city may approve or deny a variance or permit request for any number of reasons, often involving political or environmental concerns for a community.

Subdivision & Recombination

Depending on how the property will be used, it might be beneficial to have it divided or combined. For example, when constructing a new residential neighborhood for future homeowners, you need to subdivide your land into individual pieces. Additionally, to construct a large facility using land from two separate properties, that land must be combined for development. Whether subdivision or recombination, such legal changes to a property’s boundaries must be considered by a city municipality.

Additional Approvals

For any significant change you wish to make to property, it must first be approved by your city. Additions to property, such as utilities, roadways, or general landscaping, must meet all local regulations and requirements set by city laws and ordinances. And when you work with outside companies or within a city’s infrastructure to provide necessary updates to property, it can become time-consuming.

How Austin Engineering Can Help

Austin Engineering has helped with the land entitlement process for hundreds of clients across the United States. We make important connections with the city officials and local contractors that can best support the approval of your site plan and project’s features. In addition to land entitlement, we assist clients with all aspects of land development, specialized civil engineering services, landscape design, land surveying and much more! The first consultation for your proposed project is always free, with no obligation. We presently work with clients throughout the country, with offices in Peoria IL, Davenport IA, and Chattanooga TN.

311 SW Water St, Ste 215, Peoria, IL 61602
Phone: 309-204-0694

220 Emerson Place, Ste 101-A, Davenport, IA 52801
Phone: 563-207-4605

2115 Stein Dr, Ste 207, Chattanooga, TN 37421
Phone: 423-379-2725