Why government regulations lengthen the land development process

Glenn Ebersole (Courtesy of Glenn Ebersole)

Government regulations play a key role in ensuring public safety, environmental protection and community development, and can significantly lengthen the development process. Land development is a very complex and time-consuming process covering various stages, from planning and development to construction and obtaining permits.

A serious problem in various construction sectors is that government regulations have a negative impact on strategically planned smart growth. Regulations increase construction costs for residential, commercial and industrial projects and cancel or put on hold some valuable and needed smart, positive economic change. This may cause developers to invest in projects in another state that is more friendly to smart growth.

Here are the top five reasons why government regulations lengthen the zoning process.

Complex permit requirements

Complicated permit requirements imposed by various government agencies are one of the main reasons for the lengthy development process. Numerous permits must be obtained from various regulatory agencies, including environmental protection agencies, health departments, and building departments. Each permit application requires extensive documentation and can take weeks or even months to process. Some permitting processes can take many years to obtain a permit.

Long review processes

Permit review processes also extend the development timeline. Government agencies often have multiple levels of control within their organizations or even between different agencies. For example, a large-scale commercial project may require approval from multiple municipal planning commissions, boards of supervisors and commissioners, state transportation and environmental agencies, and federal regulatory agencies such as the Army Corps of Engineers.

Compliance with environmental regulations

Compliance with environmental regulations is essential for any land development project, but it can significantly lengthen the process. Developers must comply with federal and state environmental laws, such as the Clean Water Act and the Endangered Species Act. This may include conducting extensive surveys for endangered species or beginning to implement measures to mitigate potential impacts to wetlands or water quality.

Public participation

Public involvement is essential for transparency and community engagement. Public participation in the spatial development process is another factor contributing to the extension of the schedule. Many governments require developers to hold public hearings or provide opportunities for public comment at various stages of the project. This action could lengthen the approval process as developers must address concerns from residents and interest groups.

Financial constraints

Financial constraints at various levels of government can lead to delays in processing applications and issuing permits for land-use projects. Smaller regulatory agency budgets mean fewer staff members who can effectively review applications, or longer wait times for necessary approvals due to application backlogs, ultimately lengthening the overall development timeline

Final thought

The proposed zoning regulations aim to encourage efficient land use, flexibility and the reduction of potential negative impacts. It is also important to recognize and understand the effects of regulations, which significantly contribute to extending the duration of spatial development projects.

Glenn Ebersole is a Registered Professional Engineer and Business Development Manager at PM Design Group, a nationally licensed A&E firm based in West Chester with 14 offices throughout the United States. He can be reached at [email protected] or 717-575-8572.

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