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Land development projects convert land from one use to another use.  Land may be converted into residential,
commercial, retail, or industrial uses, together with their supporting features and related infrastructure. Land
development projects intend to reshape land by creating paper plans, which are acceptable economically,
environmentally, and publicly.

Land development projects range from,
  • Conversion of vacant rural land to residential or commercial uses
  • Conversion of land surrounded by developed land
  • Complex mixed uses conversion projects

Land development projects evolve in stages,
  1. Acquire land
  2. Possible rezoning of land
  3. Planning
  4. Engineering
  5. Surveying
  6. Construction

Land development projects are team efforts including,
  • Land owner, land developer, lender
  • Real estate professional and lawyer
  • Engineer, surveyor, landscape architect
  • Arborist and environmental specialist

Land development at urban fringes -  Land development projects are predominantly linked to suburban
fringe growth around urban core cities.  Growth of urban populations and automobile transportation has created
economic incentive to develop more lucrative land at the fringes of urban areas, where land is cheaper compared to
urban core area land values.  Especially with car transportation and road expansion, vast open areas have become
available for land development projects.  Cheaper outlying land together with automobile transportation has allowed
people to migrate toward fringes of urban areas, away from more crowded urban centers, chasing the American
home ownership dream and greater social affluence. The phenomenon of suburbanization of core urban areas has
continued without stop since the beginning of civilization 4000 years ago.  Cheaper fringe lands have reduced the
population density by allowing larger sized residential lots to be developed.  

The infrastructure to support land development at the suburban fringes of urban areas is tends to extend linearly,
with linear extension of roads, utility lines, and sewers lines.  The infrastructure is paid for by local municipalities,
which has linked land development to intense public regulation. Developing fringe lands at the edges of urban areas
has focused on preserving natural beauty, creating more open spaces, and using more curved roadways and less
straight roadways.

Traditionally land development has been guided by engineers and surveyors, although other specialists have been
added to the development team to help guide projects in modern times.  The formula for land development has
remained the same over time.  Lots are created by engineers and surveyors for buyers who hold lots for price
speculation, or build houses on lots for either sale or self occupancy.

FHA and housing growth -  An important boost to land development is the Federal Housing Administration –
FHA – created in 1934 to stabilize the housing industry during the Great Depression.  FHA guarantees security for
home loans, allowing low down payment of 10% for home loans, and long term amortization up to 30 years for loan
payment.  FHA created standardized construction requirements.  The FHA has driven growth in housing starts.

Land development initial procedure
For smaller land development projects, planner, engineer and surveyor are the key team members.  However, with
greater complexity in land development planning and design and regulation, the public is deeply involved too.   The
planner, engineer, and surveyor are key members of the land development team from beginning to end of a project.  

A land developer wants to build and sell houses at selected prices and locations.  To begin the process, a land
developer may find a target land parcel.  Questions must be asked.
  • Is the sale price of the land comparable for the area?
  • Are utilities available to serve the development?
  • Is the zoning compatible for the development?
  • Will asking prices of the land be close to bidding prices for the land?

Preliminary engineering feasibility study -  If these beginning questions can be answered in the
affirmative, then the next step is to hire an engineer to perform a preliminary engineering feasibility study of the
target land parcel.   The study can range from a simple site visit to lengthy study, taking from a few to several weeks
to complete.  The study will support a decision to negotiate the purchase of target land or withdrawal from purchase
for any reason whatever. The preliminary feasibility study will provide a detailed analysis of the target site. The land
developer may hurry to get land under purchase option contract, with purchase hinged upon a number of item
conditions. Upon contract, the land developer will answer questions involving complete analysis of the property,
including marketing, financing, sales potential, models for financing, and preliminary engineering feasibility study.

The preliminary engineering feasibility study will address
  • Zoning condition
  • Rezoning potential
  • Lot yield from project
  • Cost to provide infrastructure for site – onsite and offsite
  • History of support of project type by the neighborhood

The land developer will decide to purchase or not based in part by the preliminary engineering feasibility study.  If the
study reveals problematic issues, the purchase contract might be re-negotiated to reflect these issues.

Initial surveying services -  Upon purchase of the land, a land surveyor should be hired to provide two
services to the project.  First, the land boundaries of the parcel must be surveyed, marked, and mapped, to
demonstrate property title to aide in the transfer of land through the purchase agreement. Second, the topography of
the land parcel must be mapped, to serve as base map for design of the project.

Initial schematic of proposed project -  The project planner will then proceed to create an initial
schematic design of the proposed project, working closely with members of the land development team.  This planner
might be the engineer, surveyor, or landscape architect.  This initial schematic proposed plan may too be used for re-
zoning approval.  Upon acceptance of the initial schematic proposed plan, the project will evolve into the preparation
of the detailed preliminary project plan.  

Detailed preliminary project plan -  The detailed preliminary plan will add greater detail to the initial
schematic of the proposed project including,
  • connections to sewer and water
  • storm water runoff handling system
  • erosion and sediment control
  • site access
  • turning lanes
  • building setbacks
  • lot sizes
  • soil treatment

Answers to these topics will be included in the detailed preliminary plan. The preliminary plan will be submitted for
approval by the local jurisdiction and all other agencies with regulatory duties over the project location.  Approval
may be hinged upon addressing comments raised upon review of the detailed preliminary plan, and revisions
necessary or negotiable to the plan. Upon making revisions and addressing comments, final approval of the
preliminary plan may be obtained.  Successful management of the revisions is important to gain approval of the plan
and before the final design is commenced.  Public scrutiny of the revised preliminary plan may be important, even
after approval of any re-zoning or the plan, to garner public support of the project.  Pubic support of the project
should be received before final design of the project.

Detailed construction plan drawings -  Upon public acceptance and approval of the preliminary plan,
the land development project can enter into preparing detailed construction plans for the project.  The final plans
may be either separate plan drawing sets or a single plan drawing set.  The water and sewer systems must be
engineered separately and reviewed separately by governing oversight authorities or agencies.  Similarly, streets
and storm water runoff detailed construction plans must be engineered and reviewed by oversight authorities.

When the final construction plans are approved, the land developer must post a bond guarantee that the project
work will be completed according to the approved plans.

Engineering cost estimate for project -  The engineer will prepare a cost estimate for the land
developer, for project budgeting and bonding issuance.  The engineer may oversee selection of the construction
contractor through a closed bid process or negotiation with the contractor for work pricing.

Construction surveys -  Following award of work to the contractor, the construction can begin.  The surveyor
will provide lines and grades, to ensure completed construction of the project will comply with intent of the final
construction drawings.  The engineer may provide on-site inspection of construction, to ensure  compliance with
project specifications.  Often, the land developer will be required to pay an inspection fee to the city, which provides
city inspectors to check for compliance with construction drawings and specifications.
Upon completion of construction, an AS-BUILT SURVEY is made, which ensures property corners are set or
replaced.  Additionally, final engineering inspection is made of the constructed works, with the engineer’s certificate
of approved construction issued.

Home sales -  The goal of land development is to sell lots and homes.  A good sale tool is an architectural
rendering of the new home on the lot, together with floor plans.
Immediate Consultation  Call Today  612-272-2667    651-230-0268
preliminary plat demonstrating planned subdivision