What Is a Land Use Professional & Why Do You Need One?

8 Reasons it is Important to Consult an Environmental Scientist About Your Land Development Project. 

Land use professionals are environmental scientists and engineers who play a vital role in the property development and construction process. Their expertise includes a comprehensive understanding of the intricate regulatory landscape governing land development and construction. They are well-versed in zoning ordinances, building codes, environmental regulations, and community planning considerations.

Before architects and engineers can design a construction project, land use professionals are sometimes needed to help them understand the laws governing the parcel of land selected and the potential risks associated with building on it. In densely populated areas such as New York and New Jersey, ensuring a seamless journey from concept to completion is paramount. Below are eight ways in which a land use professional can help ensure your land development project proceeds smoothly.       

8 Ways Land Use Professionals Help the Land Development Process

1) Land Use Professionals Help Navigate Regulations

Land development is subject to a myriad of regulations that can vary greatly from state to state and town to town. A land use professional is a local expert who understands these regulations and uses their expertise to ensure your project aligns with current environmental regulations which can include flood hazard areas, riparian zones, wetlands, transition areas, planning areas such as the Highlands, Pinelands, Canal Zones as well as Coastal Zones and Waterfront Development.

2) They Help Maximize Your Site’s Potential

Engaging a land use professional can help you maximize the potential of your building site. As scientists and engineers, they have the ability to analyze the possibilities and limitations of your parcel of land. Their insight is important to understanding how to best utilize the land’s unique features while mitigating challenges and ensuring optimal space usage. Oftentimes sites that appear to be developable are overwrought with regulations. Wetlands are not always wet; flood hazard areas are not noticeable, and planning areas are held to strict rules. Plus, the rules are constantly changing with new information and political shifts. For example, the FEMA Flood Maps have not mapped all watercourses in New Jersey and the wetland maps are assumed wetland areas. A land use professional’s job is to cross-examine existing conditions with all relevant regulations. 

3) Land Use Professionals Improve Project Efficiency

To be efficient in gaining project approvals, developers should consult with a land use professional who can help with everything from obtaining permits to coordinating with governmental bodies. Their knowledge of local protocols can expedite approvals, reducing delays and minimizing problems that can bottleneck project progress. Eventually, your project will go before a planning board and your land use team can make sure you are prepared.

4) Having an Environmental Scientist on Your Team Helps Build Community Support

Building community support is often vital to the success of development projects and land use professionals can act as a key resource for your development team’s community liaison. Their experience can be helpful in addressing concerns that local stakeholders have about your project’s impact on the local environment. 

5) Land Use Professionals Ensure Environmental Compliance

Land use scientists and engineers are vital to ensuring environmental compliance when building in areas with stringent environmental regulations. Land use professionals can help your project team navigate things like environmental impact assessments, wetlands protection, and sustainability guidelines. This is important not only to ensure that your project meets legal requirements but also that you are building in an environmentally conscious manner.

6) Land Use Professionals Help Mitigate Risks

By anticipating potential challenges and developing contingency plans, land use professionals can mitigate risks that could otherwise disrupt project timelines and budgets. Land use professionals balance protecting natural resources while integrating the needs of development. Land use professionals are knowledgeable about future changes in regulations. Since development can take years to complete, knowing changes that are likely to take effect can prevent unnecessary delays. Projects that are not in compliance with regulatory requirements can run into violations that can delay a project until compliance is met or suffer severe fines.

7) Cost Savings

Engaging a land use professional early in the process is good for project efficiency, which can save on costs. Their expertise can help you avoid rework and costly changes mid-project. Oftentimes, a project is designed and brought to the local planning board, which then requires official documentation that the site is not in a wetland or flood hazard area. Official documentation from environmental agencies can take anywhere from around four months or longer to obtain, depending upon the difficulty of the project. Understanding the regulated areas early in the project allows engineers and architects to design accordingly, avoiding compliance requirements altogether.

8) Resiliency and Sustainability

A well-planned project that aligns with land use regulations is more likely to stand the test of time. Land use professionals can help ensure your project is built not only to withstand the resilience needed for today but also to withstand the expected impacts of climate change.  For example, weather patterns related to rainfall are changing and the areas that are considered at risk for flooding are changing as a result. Rules and regulations will start to reflect this fact as well. For example, in 2023, The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) made regulatory updates to the Flood Hazard Area Control Act Rules and Stormwater Management Rules. The updates make the regulations related to what areas are considered at risk of flooding significantly more stringent as a response to growing challenges presented by climate change and the need for resiliency.

What Should I Do if I Need a Land Use Professional?

A land use professional is an essential partner necessary to ensure the successful execution of your construction project. Whether you are building a new school, renovating a municipal building, or designing a new athletic facility, it’s important to start your project off with a proper understanding of the land you are working with. LAN Associates has a dedicated team of land use professionals who can help you determine what you need to know about a parcel of land to begin your project’s development.    

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