Understanding the Land Entitlement Process

The Land Entitlement process has many obstacles and a steep learning curve, it can require a solid team of professionals including engineers, developers, investors and community advocates. You cannot legally move forward with land development without the appropriate land entitlements. LDPNW specializes in generating value through land entitlements and by generating the best use and highest value for raw land. Our team has decades of experience working with government agencies, engineering teams, earth movers and home builders. If you would like to learn more about how we generate the highest value for land or are interested in our real estate investment fund that specializes in entitlements, please contact us.

For most, the main reason for buying land is to develop it. Having LDPNW develop land will help create its best use and highest value, whether building a shopping center, apartment complexes or residential subdivisions, all land development projects must go through the land entitlement process.

What is Land Entitlement?

Land Entitlement is the legal process of obtaining approvals for development plans. This is usually a long, complicated and expensive process but it is a vital part of the development phase because it determines the best use for the property. Basically, the land entitlement process can make or break a real estate deal. To put entitlements simply; they are a legal agreement between you and the governing municipality to allow for the development of a certain building type. The entitlements will detail zoning, function, density and many other requirements for the property.

Why are Land Entitlements so Important?

Before you can even begin to develop a property for its best use and highest value, you need permission from the local regulatory agencies and the community. Be prepared to answer tough questions from city planners, local residents and government leaders, These initial steps may very well determine your ability to move the entitlement and development process forward.


Land entitlements are incredibly important for raw land development. There any many questions and issues that will need solving before and during the entitlement process;

  1.  Does the land have access to existing infrastructure? water, sewer, electricity?

  2.  Are there any easements or do they need to be negotiated?

  3.  Is any of the land protected for wildlife? are there any wetlands?

  4.  Is the land zoned accordingly to the development plans

  5.  Are there city/county roads that need connecting to the development?

Examples of Land Entitlement:

Entitlement comes in many forms, including:

  • Use permits: You may be required to obtain conditional use permits for your property

  • Rezoning: Zoning dictates what you can and can’t do with the property, if the area is not zoned for your intended use you may need to go through the rezoning process and sometimes this is not even possible

  • Zoning Variance: This includes parking spaces, building heights, population density and setbacks

  • Utility Approvals: if utilities are not already on site you will need to seek approval for them. You may also need to donate a portion of your land to the city for utility entitlements.

  • Road approvals: if there are no existing roads to the property you may need approvals to create them, taking easements and access into consideration

How does the Land Entitlement Process Work?

There are many challenges when going through the land entitlement process, some projects may be required to go through public hearings before approval, Here’s an example of how the process works:

  1. For a residential subdivision development, the project will require approval from the city planning department review or the development review board, a land use pre-application will be created to comply with local codes and regulation.

  2.  A meeting will be scheduled for you to meet with the planning department to review the proposed project. This part of the process will approve your land site, colors, evaluations, vicinity map, landscaping and other important factors to be reviewed. During this step you will also need to submit your environmental information and pay any required fees due, these fees vary between jurisdictions.

  3.  If your plans are rejected you may appeal to the city council, this process varies from city to city.

  4. If approved the next step is to get your design approved and obtain master use permits, Now the project architect or engineer will submit detailed plans of the various aspects of the development.

  5. A neighborhood meeting will likely be scheduled, you may be asked to send out written invitations and notice, or to post on the local community website. It’s crucial you are prepared for this meeting as you’ll need to gain community approval in order to proceed from this point.

  6. If your property contains and wildlife protections or wetlands you will need to obtain special documentation as to whether the wetlands act applies to your land or not, if it does it may be best to set aside that portion of the land or donate it to avoid any issues or complications it may bring.