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10 Words You Need To Know If You Want To Develop Land

So, you purchased land and you want to build your dream home, your new office building or a 100-unit (house) subdivision. Should be easy, right? “Everyone is doing it.” Twenty years of law practice in the area of Land Use and Zoning allows me to state with confidence, it is not always easy. Every county, city and town have different rules and regulations, and the public is always permitted to weigh in at public hearings as to your plans. Below is a basic primer of land development terms to know.

1. Zoning: This is the designation given by your local government that provides the specific standards governing the uses and development of your property. The standards include allowable uses (permitted and conditional), minimum lot size, minimum setbacks, maximum lot coverage, maximum height, and sometimes, prohibited uses.

2. LDRs: The zoning regulations adopted by a county, city or town are found in the Land Development Regulations or LDRs.

3. Comprehensive Plan: The Comprehensive Plan is adopted by your local government to define the goals, objectives and policies for future development of the specific community. The Plan designates a future land use for each parcel of land in the community. The Plan must contain certain required elements and may include option elements. Required elements include future land use, transportation, sewer, water and drainage, solid waste, capital improvements, conservation, recreation and open space, housing and intergovernmental coordination.

4. Compatibility: A condition in which land uses or conditions can coexist in relative proximity to each other in a stable fashion over time such that no use or condition is unduly negatively impacted directly or indirectly by another use or condition.

5. Plat: This is defined by Florida Statutes as “a map or delineated representation of the subdivision of lands, being a complete exact representation of the subdivision and other information”. It is the document that allows property to be broken into smaller parcels to create a subdivision, to allow sale of the parcels to others. It is subject to many Florida platting statutes as well as local jurisdiction LDR’s. Once the Plat is approved by the local jurisdiction, it must be recorded in the public records and all land in the plat will be conveyed by reference to that plat.

6. Subdivision: Florida Statutes defines subdivision as “the division of land into three or more lots, parcels, tracts, tiers, blocks, sites, units, or any other division of land; and includes establishment of new streets and alleys, additions and resubdivisions; and, when appropriate to the context, relates to the process of subdividing or to the lands or area subdivided”. Most if not all local jurisdictions will require a plat if land is divided into more that two parcels.

7. Residential Restrictive Covenants: If the subdivision is to have a Homeowners’ Association, all residential restrictions (“covenants”) in Florida must comply with Florida Statutes Chapter 720. Typical restrictions related to land use and building type, architectural control, fences and wall, dwelling size, building location and setbacks, easements, surface drainage swales, nuisances, temporary structures and parking of vehicles (and types of vehicles).

8. Nonresidential Restrictive Covenants: In developments involving sites for parks, schools, shopping centers, or other community facilities, protective covenants should reserve those sites for the purposes intended. If possible, parks, schools, and other sites for facilities customarily provided on publicly owned land should be dedicated in the covenant for public use in perpetuity for the purpose intended. If this dedication is not possible, sites should be reserved exclusively for the purpose intended for a reasonable period of years.

9. Reclaimed Water: Many local jurisdictions have ordinances governing the distribution and use of treated sanitary sewer effluent (wastewater), commonly known as “grey water”. Sources of reclaimed water include sinks, showers, baths, washing machines and dishwashers.

10. Variance: Technically, a variance is the relief granted from the literal enforcement of a zoning ordinance permitting the use of property in a manner otherwise forbidden, upon a finding that enforcement of the ordinance as written would inflict practical difficulty or unnecessary hardships on a property owner. However, each local jurisdiction has its own definition and requirements for granting a variance. It is one of the most difficult land development order to obtain.

BONUS WORD: Antiquated Subdivision: a subdivision that was recorded or approved more than 20 years ago and that has substantially failed to be built and the continued buildout of the subdivision in accordance with the subdivision’s zoning and land use purposes would cause an imbalance of land uses and would be detrimental to the local and regional economies and environment, hinder current planning practices, and lead to inefficient and fiscally irresponsible development patterns as determined by the respective jurisdiction in which the subdivision is located.

But the real phrase you might need is “Local Land Use Attorney”. A seasoned and respected local land use attorney can guide you through the processes, rules and governmental agencies to successfully develop your land. The attorney can assist with due diligence, purchase and sale documents, evaluation of regulations and ordinances, public hearings, plat creation and review, drafting of covenants, creation of owners’ association, financing and preparation for sale of parcels. If you need assistance with your land development project, contact the attorneys at Lacey Lyons Rezanka.