Saturday, July 27, 2013

Are You Effected by a Land Development Plan?

     Is your land a part of a land development plan?  If it is, do you know what the projected use of your land might be for the current and near future?  What about for the more distant future like ten or even twenty years?  If your answer to any of these questions is that you do not know, it might be in your best interest to find out.  City and County planning jurisdictions often develop long range plans for the development of the property within their actual limits and often within their extraterritorial jurisdiction, land beyond their boundaries for which they have development control.  Their long range plans for your land and the the properties surrounding your land could greatly effect your ability to use your land now and in the future.
     I recently attended a pre-submittal meeting concerning a piece of land.  The owner was hoping to sell this property and the potential buyer was hoping to develop it for high -density residential housing.  The property was in a seemingly agricultural area but backed up to a new residential development.  There was another new development just down the street.  Unfortunately for my client, this piece of land was in a low density residential area on the land use plan.  The Town agreed that the area was most likely to become high density residential and even commercial in the future, but that is not the case now.  To develop this property for high density residential as my client wanted, the land use plan for the Town would have to be changed to reflect high density residential.  The property would then need to be re-zoned to high density residential and then a site plan provided, reviewed and approved.
     To develop this property as low density residential would cost my client more than leaving it vacant because he would have to provide water, sewer and roads within the site.  To apply for the change in the land development plan would also be costly and would take a minimum of half a year to accomplish.  It would also mean that he would be taking the risk that the Town's decision might be to not allow the requested change.  In the end, my client chose to walk away from the property and the owner placed it back on the market.
     Land development plans can be a very powerful tool for a municipality to use to control and direct growth.  Obviously, uncontrolled growth does not really benefit anyone.  It  can cause real problems for innocent property owners who simply want to use their land the way that they were permitted to utilize it when they first purchased it.  Consider for instance a property owner who bought land in the country and built a home expecting to be able to live out their life in a rural country setting.  Without a land development plan and zoning regulations, this property owner could very easily find themselves living on their land surrounded by high density housing, like apartments, and commercial development, like a shopping center.  This could seriously effect their quality of life and their property value.  They might find that they cannot even sell their land and are stuck with having to remain in a now undesirable spot because of finances that were totally controlled by someone else.
     With a land development plan in place, existing property owners are at least given a chance to speak out when a change in the plan is requested.  Without one, they basically have no rights or voice in how surrounding properties are utilized.  It is important to know if there is a plan in place that effects your land.  This might determine how you develop that land, but it might also greatly protect it from surrounding development.

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