Guide to Commercial Land Development

Commercial land typically requires several steps before we can start construction. Every jurisdiction has differing nuances but most follow a similar framework. For this article we have chosen Colorado Springs guidelines. We must have an approved Development Plan (DP) before we can get approved Building Plans, then we can pull the actual Building Permits and commence work. If the land already has an approved DP, it is referred to as “Entitled” since all of the land’s entitlements are clearly known. This land is worth more money than un-entitled land because the owner or prospective buyers do not have a clear picture of what will be allowed or what the development costs will be. This is a big deal in the commercial world because often times the infrastructure development can cost more than the buildings going on the land.

Having an approved DP makes land more valuable since now any investor can quickly determine whether a property will work for their intended purposes and be able to project development costs. It also allows them to move quickly into actual construction phases and time is money.

Assembling the right team will be vital to the success of your project. You will need a general contractor (GC), commercial architect, civil engineer, surveyor, and landscape architect at a minimum. Having people that know the ropes and are accustom to working with the many government agencies that will be involved in your project will ensure the best outcome. We have seen land that multiple people have tried to use and failed to get the concessions needed to build and then our team pushes through the obstacles with no problem. Your team matters!

The Steps For an Approved DP:

  • Meeting with GC and Architect to determine your desired outcome
    • Are we building or just increasing property value by having entitled property?
    • What type of buildings and what use will the buildings serve?
  • Architect does a site optimization study and determines setbacks, easements & restrictions. They will then draft a concept site plan that captures the desired buildings with any restrictions that they have found during the study.
  • Pre-application Meeting with City Planners to gain insight into issues they see with the plan, feasibility of any needed variances, any addition requirements they may have and the planner will determine whether a Land Development Technical Committee (LDTC) meeting is needed. Finally, the planner will determine whether the application must follow the administrative review process or the public hearing process.
  • LDTC meeting will involve city representatives from Traffic Engineering, Subdivision Engineering Review Team, Fire, Water, Wastewater, Parks, Enumerations, Floodplain, Transit, Police & E-911. These attendees will outline any issues that are identified at the initial stage of the process and any documents or reports that should be included with the formal submittal.
  • Pre-Application Neighborhood Meeting & Notification (if required). The applicant will propose the date, time and location of the meeting which then must be approved by the assigned planner. The meeting will be facilitated by the planner with the help of the applicant. After the meeting the planner will give the applicant a list of all reasonable objections. The applicant will be required to address all objections in the formal submittal.
  • Formal Application submittal- The assigned project planner will authorize the formal submittal once they feel all concerns have been properly addressed.
    • 4 weeks- first review letter should be provided by the planner allowing the applicant to make changes to the plan if necessary
    • Resubmit if necessary
    • After resubmittal, the planner has 2 weeks to review updated documents
  • Final Disposition- once the DP has been approved we can turn our focus to the building plans and the building department approval which is covered here.

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