As experienced property developers know, the world of building permits is a complex system full of variations. What is approved easily in one location could face significant hurdles in another. If you’re starting out as a developer, or planning a development in a different county here’s a look at the differences you might encounter across different jurisdictions:

Regulation and Code Variations

  • Building Codes: While many jurisdictions adhere to national or state-level building codes, regional amendments are common. Some areas might have additional restrictions around seismic activity, hurricane-resistant construction, or energy efficiency.
  • Zoning and Land Use: Zoning restrictions vary dramatically. One locale might encourage mixed-use development, while another has strict separation between commercial and residential zones. Similarly, setback requirements, allowable building heights, and lot coverage limitations can differ significantly.
  • Environmental Regulations: Sensitivity to wetlands, protected species, and historical preservation varies intensely across jurisdictions. Projects requiring environmental impact studies in one area may not face similar scrutiny elsewhere.

Approval Processes and Timelines

  • Complexity: Some permitting agencies have simplified application processes with clear checklists and online submission platforms. Others might operate with paper-based systems and opaque requirements. Archistar’s eCheck platform makes the process even simpler by carrying out compliance checks before your application is submitted.
  • Review Timeframes: The speed at which your jurisdiction processes permits can cause project timelines to fluctuate wildly. Certain localities are known for swift approvals, while others might have notoriously long waiting periods, especially if they’re understaffed.
  • Level of Scrutiny: The thoroughness of the plan review differs. Some areas take a cursory glance, while others work through applications with a fine-toothed comb. This impacts how much detail you’ll need to provide upfront and the likelihood of revisions.

Fees and Associated Costs

  • Permit Cost Structures: Some jurisdictions have flat fees, while others scale their fees based on project valuation. Expect a significant range in what you might pay across different locations.
  • Hidden Costs: Beyond base permit fees, consider additional potential costs. Some areas charge heavily for revisions, re-inspections, or require specialized third-party reviews, like geotechnical studies. And you should also be prepared to pay for separate permits for things like an access road, tree removal, and temporary onsite offices.

Examples of Contrasting Jurisdictions

To illustrate this further, let’s consider some examples:

  • Coastal vs. Inland: Coastal jurisdictions generally have stricter regulations to address flood zones, storm surge, or environmental concerns unique to shoreline construction. These areas may require additional permits and engineering solutions.
  • Urban vs. Suburban: Dense urban centers often have complex zoning overlays, historical preservation districts, and a greater number of stakeholders involved in the approval process.
  • Growth-Oriented vs. Established Communities: Rapidly growing areas may offer incentives and streamlined permitting processes to attract development. In contrast, established communities can be resistant to change and have more stringent requirements.

Expanding on this with State and city examples:

Mitigating the Impact of Jurisdictional Differences

  • Thorough Due Diligence: Deep research on your targeted jurisdiction is essential. Understand prevailing regulations, typical timelines, and costs before investing heavily.
  • Rely on Local Expertise: Architects, consultants, and expediters intimately familiar with your local permit system can be invaluable in identifying red flags and expediting the process.
  • Plan Contingencies: Always build in contingencies to your project timeline and budget to accommodate potential delays or unexpected requirements as you navigate jurisdictional differences.

Don’t underestimate the impact of jurisdictional differences on the feasibility and timeline of your development projects. If your local building department isn’t using eCheck by Archistar, get them to request a demo to see how it can simplify the process.