Making Better Use of Redevelopment (Land Entitlement Strategy)

Making Better Use of Redevelopment (Land Entitlement Strategy)

Author: Matthew B. Jarmel AIA | MBA | NCARB

Date: April 24, 2024

It’s a common problem for developers. You have an excellent idea for a new real estate development—one you’re sure will be profitable, sustainable, and beneficial to the town for decades to come. Unfortunately, there’s no suitable land for it.

Or here’s a variation: perhaps you identify a great site, but it is not zoned for your intended use. What’s to be done then?

That’s where Jarmel Kizel Architects & Engineers, Inc. comes in.

We do this a dozen times a year in multiple cities and for various markets. We help developers like you, with your land entitlement strategy, getting planning and zoning boards to approve your intended use or working with the community to modify zoning ordinances.

Why is Land Entitlement Important?

Here’s a true story.

We once had a client in New Jersey who owned a small retail building on a busy street. He had recently bought additional land adjacent to it, on which he planned to build a new multifamily development attached to the retail building.

It made good business and even, planning sense. Unfortunately, our client realized too late that the land was not zoned appropriately, and the town would not allow him to build his apartment building.

He could not proceed with his project, but he had already bought the land.

Our client had made a common, yet costly, mistake that many developers and entrepreneurs make. They are unfamiliar with the importance and complexity of zoning and site analysis, and they acquire property for uses that weren’t allowed in the first place.

Our client turned to us to protect his investment, and advise on zoning and design strategy. Only then was he able to implement a land entitlement strategy to see his dream project become a reality.

The Challenges Facing New Developments

Most new development projects in already-developed areas get rejected. This can be for any one of many possible reasons:

Existing residents dislike significant new developments in their area, as they’re afraid it’ll increase the land value and drive up taxes.
They’re also worried about the increased traffic the new development will bring.
Municipalities, in general, need to be convinced that the new development will benefit all stakeholders—especially in the area of affordable housing—and that’s not easy to do.

Adding to the challenge is the fact that zoning laws are rigid. Your development project will most likely be rejected if it doesn’t fit the prescribed use of the land and requires a use variance. Most challenging of all: local zoning boards often won’t change their position unless faced with a lawsuit.

That’s why it’s so important to have a land entitlement strategy. With one in place, you’ll save your company from incurring thousands, if not millions, of dollars in legal and redesign fees. This is where we can help you.

Jarmel Kizel Architects & Engineers, Inc.

Since 1975, real estate developers across the country have been turning to Jarmel Kizel Architects & Engineers, Inc. for help with their development projects. Whether you need a land planning and entitlement strategy, financial analysis of your income-producing properties and projects, or real estate development advice, Jarmel Kizel has the design and land entitlement expertise to bring your idea to fruition.

Here are some of the ways we help developers navigate the complex world of zoning and land use:

We make Affordable Housing rules work for you. If your project is a multifamily development, we have strategies to make municipalities consider rezoning for your intended use—even if they do not align with their Master Plan.
We work with municipalities to change zoning ordinances. We can make a case for municipalities to designate areas in need of redevelopment and change or create overlay zoning allowing your development to proceed.
We help re-envision your project if necessary to comply with zoning laws and maximize profit. Where a use variance or zone change is not possible, our architects and engineers can help identify uses and design your project into one that’s use is compliant and profitable for the long term.

The Team

To form and execute a well-defined land entitlement strategy, you’ll want the following experts on your team:

  • Zoning Attorney. You’ll want a legal expert on zoning regulations on your team—a superstar who will check the land, fight to get that board approval or tell you when to stay away from potentially sticky legal situations. Frequently developers like to use a local attorney with political clout, we find if you have a difficult application the local team might not fight for you. Use an attorney with expert zoning knowledge.
  • Civil Engineer. You’ll want an expert in land planning—someone familiar with the land entitlement process with engineering skills in grading, stormwater drainage, wetlands, and flood hazard zones—to give your development the most robust foundation it can get. Jarmel Kizel’s civil engineering studio can do this for you.
  • Architect. You’ll want a skilled designer to envision your project to be aesthetically pleasing, with functionality, sustainability, and economics involved. Jarmel Kizel’s architectural team has tremendous experience serving developers and believes in a “Form follows Economics” approach.
  • Traffic engineer. Before any construction begins, you’ll want a traffic expert to check the roads bounding and near the proposed site and check if they add any additional legal considerations to your project.
  • Professional planner. You’ll want an expert to handle the variance testimony, assist in developing economic analysis for your site, and advise on land use strategies and taxes.

Our principals are NCARB Certified and eligible to reciprocity nationwide, and our professionals are licensed in more than 30 states. We are well-positioned to offer our expertise to your company, no matter where you do business.

Contact Us Today

So, how did we help our client in New Jersey who wanted to build apartments next to his retail building?

We talked to the community and the town council, and we realized that the town had a shortage of affordable housing, which State law required.

We then presented a compelling case to the council to allow the construction of our client’s apartment building, the design of which we adjusted to have several affordable housing units.

Seeing how the project would address an underlying community need, the council gladly created a special overlay zone on the land and approved the apartment project. All stakeholders were very pleased.

This is just one of the many success stories we’ve had at Jarmel Kizel Architects & Engineers, Inc. If you, too, would like a skilled, experienced team of land entitlement advisors on your side, give us a call today at 201-376-0199.

Matthew B. Jarmel AIA | MBA | NCARB
Matthew B. Jarmel AIA | MBA | NCARB

Matthew B. Jarmel, AIA, MBA | NCARB is an American architect and real estate developer. He is managing Principal of Jarmel Kizel Architects and Engineers, Inc., located in Livingston, NJ.