Real Estate Journal — January 16 - 29, 2015 — 19A


M id A tlantic

2015 F orecast By Steve L. Johns, PE, PLS VanDemark & Lynch Land Development in 2015


residential to create “walk- able” communities. Regardless of the health of the economy, obtaining the necessary regulatory approv- als for construction is still required. Regulatory agencies have been much more willing to help resolve regulatory is- sues, especially if the project will have a positive economic impact. On the other hand, public concerns about envi- ronmental impacts, preserva- tion of open space, and traffic congestion, still impact the approval process. Local opposi- tion to just about any proposed

development is causing seri- ous delays and increasing the headaches and cost involved with obtaining approvals. Ne- gotiating the approval process can take a significant amount of time, especially with the political pressures caused by local opposition (NIMBYs). Therefore, it is important to start the process early. Simple projects may only take one month to design, but obtain- ing the necessary approvals may take another four to ten months; and, depending on project details, larger projects can take well over a year.

Compounding the difficul- ties in obtaining approvals are continued changes in regula- tions. New stormwater regula- tions in Delaware, as well as in the entire Chesapeake Bay watershed, have now been promulgated. TMDL (Total Maximum Daily Loads) has become a term everyone needs to know, as the new regula- tions limit TMDL’s watershed by watershed. In Delaware, although the new regulations are just now being tested, the new process includes many steps that improve the con- sistency and locks the design

onsulting engineers are often the first to know of new develop-

requirements in the earliest design stages of the project. This significantly reduces the possibility of redesigns and shortens the overall design time frame. Also in Delaware, the De- partment of Transportation is continuing to refine the Traffic Impact Study require- ments, and every section of its Subdivision Manual. They are working with local govern- ments to create Transporta- tion Improvement Districts, which will allow area-wide studies, reducing the need for continued on page 22A

ment plans because their expertise in the land de- v e l o pme n t p r o c e s s i s critical when s o m e o n e w a n t s t o build new or

Steve Johns

expanded facilities. Consult- ing engineering firms provide project planning, site and building design, and coordi- nation of the regulatory ap- proval process. These all have an early impact on commer- cial, industrial, institutional, or residential development. Therefore, if we review the number, size, and types of projects “on our boards,” we can spot trends developing in land use. Based on a review of our past year’s business, the land development business has stabilized. We did not see huge growth, but our clients contin- ued to call us throughout the year with new projects. Thus the slow but steady growth trend in the land development industry was maintained. Even the single family hous- ing industry showed signs of life, as it has been the last and slowest to climb out of the recession. Other segments of the development world are continuing to wake up to a new economy. There are more and more companies that finally feel comfortable exploring new opportunities, and are considering taking risks that were prohibitive in the past few years. Apartments continue to be a leading area of growth along with industrial activi- ties. There are many manu- facturers looking to build or relocate facilities to sites that can take advantage of the cheap natural gas from central Pennsylvania, and have easy access to ports. This combi- nation of stable, inexpensive energy and rawmaterial, with easy transport of goods, could provide a significant boost to the local economy, but there is still a significant amount of environmental permitting that must be approved before the real benefits are achieved. There is also a continued interest in developing large multipurpose developments that combine commercial with

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