Land Use Entitlements: Understanding the Process
What is an Entitlement?
An entitlement is the legal method of obtaining approvals for the right to develop property for a particular use. There are several different types of entitlements that affect real estate. Some of these entitlements include:
- Zoning and zoning variances for building heights, number of parking spaces, setbacks
- Use Permits
- Road approvals
- Utility approvals
- Landscaping approvals
Land Use Entitlements
When discussing land use entitlements specifically, it is important to understand how they are connected to zoning and zoning variances. Land use entitlements are the backbone of any development project. They dictate the types of buildings that are permitted on a piece of property and the property’s value. If a property is limited in use, the value of that property is not as high as a property that has a range of use options.
An entitlement is a legal agreement with a municipality that gives a developer the ability to build a certain type of building on a site that it is not approved for in the initial zoning. Entitlements detail the density, function and setback requirements that the municipality is allowing for that property to be built on that site.
The Process of Requesting an Entitlement
The process of requesting an entitlement is done by application. When a municipality considers an entitlement application, they make several judgment calls. They weigh the impact of how the building type will affect the property that it will be built on. How traffic will be impacted, environmental risks, community acceptance of the proposed development – these are all things considered when making a decision on the application. Because of this, they will often request due diligence reports from the owner as well as a proposed conceptual rendering of the project.
When applying for land use entitlements, the process can be long. Entitlements can take from six months to two years to obtain, dependent on the size and scope of a project. Most of this has to do with administrative requests and gathering the reports that the municipality might need in order to make an informed decision. Along with the time spent in the land use entitlement process, the costs to obtain the required documents and renderings can be exorbitant.
Understanding the entitlement application process is essential to making sound decisions in a development process. There are typically many different professionals involved in the process. Architects, developers, lawyers, project consultants, civil, soil, landscape and structural engineers and various types of consultants could all potentially be involved in the process of requesting land use entitlements. Involving these professionals at the outset of a development project will help analyze, review, interpret and advise you regarding design studies, applicable zoning and code requirements, and maximum development potential of the property. Having someone on your team who has already networked and built a rapport with local government staff is also a great asset, as those relationships can assist with expediting the approval process so that your project can move forward.
Ensuring Your Success
In some ways, building an effective development team can make or break your project. With any type of land use entitlement request, understanding the concerns of the local government and of the residents in the community where the property is located, as well as the effects that the development will have on the immediate community and the communities that surround it, is a critical component of the project. Understanding concerns that are brought up and incorporating the ideas from feedback in the planning, design and implementation of the project will not only prevent potential conflicts in the future, but will also get a community buy-in and commitment that will make the development thrive.
When requesting land use entitlements, there are an abundance of issues that could come up that would require the services of an experienced and well-tested real estate attorney. These things include, but are not limited to:
- Tax Increment Financing (TIF)
- Business districts
- Sales tax sharing agreements
- Debt financing
- Covenants and restrictions
- Historic preservation
- Subdivision approvals
- Wetlands regulations
- Development agreements
- Eminent domain
- Solid waste facility siting
Having the right attorney behind your development project can make the difference between its success and its failure. When choosing a real estate attorney, consider being represented by www.chicagorealestatelawfirm.com. Our experienced staff will do everything necessary to make the land use entitlements request process as easy as possible, including assisting with development team recommendations that can coordinate your project to success. Contact us today and let our expertise work for you.