Sometimes commercial real estate deals are easy, like the LSU Tigers are to beat this season (sorry, Geaux Tigers!), and sometimes they aren’t. Deal complications and hurdles can numerous, and come from many different places. At times the complications can be from the client themselves, like the pain in the butt client who is difficult to work with but is your good friend so you deal with anyway, or the client that really really wants that building but just can’t make a solid decision one way or the other.

Other commercial real estate deals are difficult because they encounter planning and zoning issues. These issues have to do with commercial tracts of land or properties that need rezoning, to be subdivided, or a site plan review. In Baton Rouge, any of these planning and zoning issues can be a long and drawn out process. As a commercial real estate Advisor I can’t stress enough the value in being educated on how to navigate each process. Knowing how to advise a client before they even put the land tract/building under contract not only adds value to an investment, it adds value to your business.

Below find insider information on how a commercial real estate Advisor would guide a client through common planning and zoning issues of rezoning, subdivision, and site plan review.

Common Baton Rogue Planning and Zoning Issues and How to Navigate Them

Here’s a quick rundown on common planning and zoning processes in Baton Rouge, LA. Most municipalities in Louisiana run the same way, but it’s always best to double check prior to advising anyone on their commercial real estate deal. Let’s begin…

Rezoning

A Commercial Real Estate Advisors Guide to Planning and Zoning Issues 1000pxCommercial real estate rezonings always require an application and there is always a tight deadline. If you happen to make that month’s rezoning application deadline, know that you will have another month before you’ll see the Planning and Zoning Commission (say hello to the current Chair and Co-chair Jason and Rossie for me). While waiting to see the P&Z Commission and hear the comments back from the Staff, here are a few insider “tried and tested” pointers:

Tip #1: Make sure you have spoken with the neighbors directly adjacent to you.

A notice goes up a month before the Commission meeting with a yellow sign on the subject commercial real estate property letting the public know about the potential rezoning. Any property owner within 300 feet will also receive a postcard notifying them of the rezoning efforts. This allows the public the chance to call and ask questions about the project. It also  notifies them of when the public hearing will be held so they can come and voice their opinions.

Your best bet for a smooth process is to talk directly to the neighbors, and the neighborhoods within reach. Figure out their issues with the project and try to remedy them prior to the P&Z meeting. They want more landscape buffering? Make it happen (if financially feasible). They want you to leave some trees? Leave them! Try to make their concerns a thing of the past and it will make the process a much smoother one.

Tip #2: Be prepared to answer commission questions.

The P&Z Commission will ask a lot of questions about the commercial real estate property and it’s best to have your experts there with you to provide the most thorough and accurate responses.

  • Line up your engineer to be there with you at the hearing to answer any engineering questions.
  • Have your main developer there to talk about the project and their commitment to being a great neighbor.

These minor details are awesome when trying to get anything passed. The Commission is in a unique spot. They have set rules and guidelines (Unified Development Code) that they need to go by to help move projects along, but they also must take the public’s concerns to heart and try to resolve them. If an owner hasn’t talked to the neighbors BEFORE the commission meeting, the meeting will most likely be deferred until they do. A typical deferment is 60 days. Moral of the story: talk to the neighbors.

Tip #3: Speak to Metro Council members beforehand.

If all goes well at P&Z and the rezoning is passed, the project will next move on to Metro Council (it’ll be introduced two weeks later and voted on a month after it passes P&Z). Each Metro Councilwoman/man is solely concerned about their district and how this potential rezoning will affect them, and Baton Rouge. It doesn’t hurt to go and speak with them ahead of time and let them know what legwork has been done to make this a smooth and positive process. Afterall, their constituents will be calling them on the rezoning, so an owner should be doing the same. If you pass the Metro Council, you’re good to go and you’re officially rezoned.

Overall, be aware that the process can take anywhere from 2 to 3 months. Any CRE Advisor should ou’ll make sure their client is well aware of that before he/she signs a purchase agreement. By the way, if your rezoning happens to get shot down at P&Z, you still have a chance to get it passed at the Metro Council meeting.

Subdividing

In the parish of East Baton rouge, a commercial real estate owner will need to submit a subdivision plat and have two things before they can subdivide and close. These two things are:

  1. Have frontage on a public road: If they don’t have frontage, they will need to have access to one, or remedy the issue by building a road.
  2. Have utilities to the site: If the site doesn’t have utilities, the owner has two options and it can take anywhere from 60 to 120 days.

Utilities Option A Fully Build Lines (Timeframe – 120 days: 60 days + 30 days + 30 days)

  • Submit plans to DPW (Department of Public Health) and the Health Department. (Timeframe: 60 days max.)
    • 30 days to install (granted weather is good.)
    • 30 days STAFF level planning and zoning approval.

Option B Bond Over Cost (Timeframe – 90 Days: 60 days + 30 Days)

  • Submit plans to DPW (Department of Public Health) and the Health Department. (Timeframe: 60 days max.)
    • Bond over the cost estimate (estimate will be submitted within your plans) by 125%
  • 30 days STAFF level planning and zoning approval.
  • Once an owner has done these two things, they are good to go.

Site Plan Review

Every commercial real estate project that is over 50,000 square feet must obtain a site plan review. This process runs the same as a rezoning MINUS having to go through the Metro Council. Site plan review is managed and seen by the Planning and Zoning Commission exclusively. This process takes roughly 60 days to complete. Same rules apply.

Moral of the Commercial Real Estate Story: Be Prepared!

Those are the three main planning and zoning issues that commercial real estate owners run into with larger or harder projects. I personally don’t think these issues are hard, if an owner knows the process, is a good neighbor, and follows the UDC, they will be able to rock and roll pretty quickly. If you have questions regarding planning and zoning, or just need advice with a commercial property, give me a shout at 225.788.8777 or Kathryn.Juneau@svn.com

Bio-Blue

KJAbout Kathryn Juneau – After breaking into Baton Rouge Commercial Real Estate in 2011, Kathryn became licensed in 2013 and began specializing in senior housing. In 2014, Kathryn became and Advisor with SVN | Graham, Langlois & Legendre, LLC. She has represented large users of medical and industrial space in an array of real estate transactions. Kathryn’s reputation of tenaciously protecting her clients’ interest, savvy negotiations and cutting edge marketing strategies have led to numerous closings and returns to her clients. To contact Kathryn, you can email her at kathryn.juneau@svn.com, call her at 225-367-1515 or follow her on Twitter at @KatJuneau.

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