Steps to Getting your Site Plan Approved. Simple Explanation by an Architect.

How exactly do you make sure that your city approves your site plan? Here are the step by step explanation of getting your site plan approved by your city planners and or city officials.

Getting your Site Plan Approved

              When I say an “approved site plan” what do I mean by that term? From an architectural standpoint there are numerous phases of owner input, urban design work, plan reviews, floor plan considerations, landscape planning and engineering studies that all have to work together in harmony to get a city staff approved site plan set. The people involved in this process are the architect, the owner, the landscape architect, the civil engineer, the surveyor, the lighting engineer and the city staff who reviews all the site plans. 
             Sometimes on certain particular sites there is also a traffic engineer, if a traffic impact study is required. If a site has a creek, lake or floodplain in or near it a hydrology engineer has to be hired to perform a flood study.

There are some simple steps that you can follow. 

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             Let me start  with saying every site is different and unique by the nature of the physical world. Therefore, it is best to start with a general analysis of the site. 
             The owner’s input as to their goals for the use of the site must be known. detailed survey by a licensed land surveyor of the site features, easements, property lines, topography, etc. is also critical to start the design process. Once that is all available, the architect will create a very preliminary site plan indicating the building footprint. Other considerations also must be inserted into the analysis. These are city zoning regulations for landscaping, parking, building setbacks, buffer zones, public open spaces, required walkways, trash enclosures, fencing, fire department access and driveway locations. 
           Once these elements are all known the preliminary site plan can be created. The preliminary site plan then goes through a multi-level review process with the owner, architect, landscape architect and consulting engineers. I have seen this process take from two months to over a year to finally arrive at a site plan that works for everyone. Once the site plan is at this stage a formal set of site plans called a “site submittal package” is prepared by the architects and engineers. That formal site submittal package is then officially submitted to a city staff for their review and approval.
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The city review process can take up to 60-120 days to reach an “approved site plan” from the city staff. This
process usually has 2-4 reviews, comments, revisions and resubmission cycles involved. 

If the AE Team (Architect/ Engineer) is successful, they will receive a “city red stamped plan set” (photo at top of page) back from the staff. That is the final goal of the site planning and site approval process. At that time the city will accept an application for a building permit for the project.

1 Comment

  • Fred Ballinger

    Great article, Terry!
    Many do not understand the complexity of creating a successful and comprehensive site plan for approval. Should this be required reading for future clients?😉
    Best regards
    Fred Ballinger, RA, RID

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