You may have heard the phrase before: Property ownership is a bundle of sticks. Land development is a complex process regardless of what stage you’re in, but the early stages can be particularly ambiguous because of the legal, regulatory, and environmental limitations of the land. At RVi, we help our clients understand their “bundle of sticks”, how those “sticks” may impact development, and what options are available for negotiation or mitigation.
Easements & Encumbrances
Many properties are encumbered by certain easements that allow for other parties to legally use the site. For example, a piece of privately-owned property might have a drainage easement that belongs to the local municipality. The property owner’s rights, and the City’s rights, are governed by the easement. Not all easements are created equal, either. Some easements may be originally intended for a certain use, but also allow for other uses such as recreation or parking. The important thing to note is that each easement must be evaluated individually to determine what uses are acceptable. However, all hope is not lost if the easement does not currently allow for a certain desired use – it is possible to negotiate new uses for the site if the property owner and the owner of the easement can come to an agreement.
Land located within a City’s corporate limit or ETJ is often subject to local regulations that may limit how the land can be used and how a particular land use can be developed. For example, certain streets may be required in accordance with a city or county thoroughfare plan. Also, a site might be zoned for specific uses and further regulated in terms of the size of building setbacks, height of structures on the site, number of parking spaces that must be provided, or types of trees that must be protected. Zoning is one area that may necessitate negotiation during the land development process. Successful re-zoning requires strong relationships with municipalities, including staff and council members. It can also often require skillful community outreach to build support for the project among neighboring stakeholders.
Certain natural conditions can also impact the development of a site, including the presence of wetlands, floodplain, geological faults, aquifers, and endangered species. Once these conditions are verified, the property owner is often subject to a new set of rules that govern development. The presence of one or more of these conditions is not necessarily a deal killer, though. Working with appropriate environmental consultants, we help our clients understand the requirements of moving forward with development. Often times these environmental features can become natural amenities that make a development even more successful.
In closing, we understand that the early stages of land development can be challenging because of all the visible and invisible factors influencing the site. At RVi, we help our clients understand, organize, and leverage their “bundle of sticks,” with the end goal of creating a solid foundation for moving forward with appropriate site development.