City Approval Process for Eco Express
THE most lengthy and time consuming portion for an owner is getting municipal approval for the project. It is also the phase that typically has the highest amount of risk. The first portion of the approval, vetting the site to ensure it meets zoning and planned-use developments, is the first hurdle previously discussed. The next hurdle is taking your proposed site layout, architectural sketches and survey though the various municipal departments. Each municipality will vary in their procedures, but there are many common elements in the process. Different departments will review the project such as engineering, transportation, wastewater, utility companies and environmental. Each department will have their own area of focus to ensure the project complies with the applicable codes (or at least their interpretation).
Sometimes the approval process is straight forward and moves at a steady pace, especially if the city wants your project to happen. Other times the process can be long and painful, with seemingly non-sensical requirements that leave you scratching your head. For example on one project for a customer, the city required an elevated bike path be built through the middle of the car wash to allow for pedestrian traffic at the business. There was no room for negotiation on this point and it killed the project for that site.
Luckily for Eco Express, our approval process tended more towards the steady pace. The city appointed a case manager which coordinated all the different departments, and prompted them if they fell behind the notional approval timelines the city laid out. There were some requirements however which were ‘chicken and the egg’. The utility easements could not be relinquished until the utilities were relocated. But we could not relocate them until we owned the property, free of easements. This required some creative conditional agreements which in the end satisfied all parties.