The term “due diligence” gets thrown around a lot in the development world, but often with little regard for what the term entails. As with all things relating to property, this post is in no way intended to encompass all considerations in due diligence as properties are unique and present specific needs of review. However, the following list provides a brief glimpse into items to review when you are considering the purchase of real property for development in Southwest Florida:
- Zoning: What is the zoning classification of the property? Each local jurisdiction (i.e. City, Town, County, Village, etc.) has its own Land Development Code which establishes uses and property development regulations specific to the zoning designation. Most jurisdictions offer Zoning Verification Letters for a fee which will confirm this information in addition to your independent review.
- Land Use: Just as zoning above, each property also bears a future land use designation under that jurisdiction’s Comprehensive Plan. Many people get land use and zoning confused, but they are separate and distinct designations, which each carry development parameters for your property. Land use can be thought of as the larger umbrella of regulations under which the zoning implements specific regulations consistent within that umbrella. This is typically where you will find density and intensity limitations for your property as well.
- Community Plans: Perhaps more of a recent animal in Southwest Florida, there have been increasing numbers of community plans adopted by local jurisdictions which provide yet another level of review aside from zoning and land use. Some of these plans impose specific development regulations, while others provide only guidance and review by a local community board.
- Water Management Permits: The agencies most involved with water management permits in Southwest Florida are the South Florida Water Management District (“SFWMD”) or the Southwest Florida Water Management District (“SWFWMD”). Both of these agencies have great databases available for public review of permits affecting property within their jurisdictional bounds, and boast interactive mapping sites which facilitate permit review.
- Code Violations: Are there any pending Code violations associated with your property? What is required to resolve it? Have liens been imposed? Securing answers to these questions may affect the timing and cost of your real estate transaction and should not be overlooked.
- Community Outreach: If you intend to develop a vacant parcel or are changing the use of an existing development, consider the community in which the property is located and how that community will receive your proposal. This is especially important if public hearings are involved in your development. This could make or break your project!
- Plat/Survey/Title Work: Is the property platted? Do you intend to divide the property in a different configuration than it is currently shown? Surveys should always be obtained prior to purchase to ensure there are no issues with setbacks, easements, etc.
- Environmental Review: Even if you are involved in a cash transaction that does not require lender financing, a Phase I is encouraged to better inform you of the environmental condition of the property and potentially provide liability protection if a problem later arises.
As stated, this list is not intended to be exhaustive, but does provide a general idea of things to consider when you undergo due diligence for property transactions in Southwest Florida. Given the complexities of some of these items and the investment you are making in your purchase, you may elect to seek the assistance of an attorney or other land use professional to assist in your review.