Tips for Navigating Florida’s Due Diligence Process

Tips for Navigating Florida’s Due Diligence Process

Navigating through the due diligence (DD) phase of any project can be tricky, as it is crucial to get the correct development standards together as quickly as possible so you can begin designing your site. However, at the same time, you don’t want to leave any stone unturned. The state of Florida offers a few unique challenges that can slow you down if you don’t know what to look for in the due diligence process. Practice makes perfect in a speedy DD process, but here are a few key items to keep in mind for a project in Florida.

Planned Urban Developments 
Planned Urban Developments (PUDs) or Developments of Regional Impact (DRIs) can be a major factor in the development standards of a site in Florida. PUDs are adopted standards created by planners and commissioners to set a clear vision for a certain area that is set to undergo growth. They are prevalent in rural areas that are pinned for future development, as well as existing developments that are undergoing new construction and redevelopment. It is important to discover where these PUDs exist, as they often will have very different standards and practices than the regular zoning of the property. PUDs seem to pop up quite frequently in Florida, so this is one of the first things you need to look for when identifying the zoning of the property. The local planning department will be able to inform you of PUD and DRI standards. In a perfect world, the planner is well versed with all requirements, but it’s often the actual recorded document that’s your main source for the necessary design standards.

Stormwater Requirements
Jurisdictional stormwater requirements can kill a site before it even gets started, especially in Florida. Florida’s propensity to receive a lot of rain, coupled with its low-lying geography, makes stormwater requirements very tough to meet on certain sites. This is especially true on the smaller sites that we typically encounter for commercial developments, as there is not enough space to provide the required storage for stormwater. Often, we must deal with multiple jurisdictional requirements that have separate needs and rules that must be met. It is always crucial to determine which set of rules is most demanding, whether it be the local jurisdiction, the water management district, or the Florida Department of Transportation. Most of the time a pond (wet or dry) will satisfy all requirements. However, in extreme scenarios, we may have to go with an underground exfiltration trench to treat the site's stormwater. An exfiltration trench is a network of pipes underground that stormwater flows to and trickles out of into small stones or crushed concrete surrounding the pipes. Since this method goes straight under your site, it’s popular in south Florida where land is expensive and developers don’t want to pay for the extra space required by a drainage pond.

Permitting Matrix
Developing a “permit matrix” can be extremely helpful for identifying the timeline of permit schedules throughout the development phase. “Permitting matrix” is a fancy term used for the creation of a chart with multiple rows and columns used to identify things such as fees and review periods. They usually always involve a Pre-Application Meeting with multiple jurisdictions such as, but not limited to, the local jurisdiction, the stormwater authority, and the roadway authority. Based on these meetings and your conceptual site plan, you can determine which permits will be required and your matrix can be adjusted accordingly. It helps to list all permits/applications to see in what order they must be submitted in and the associated timeline for each review. You can easily identify potential problems or delays if you find that a certain permit, such as a building permit, cannot be applied for until the site plan review is completed and approved in its entirety. This is a very crucial step of the due diligence phase, as this is often what the client is most vested in – the timeline!

If you pay extra attention to these three topics during your due diligence phase for a project in Florida, you should be on the right track. It is always important to gather every single piece of information you need now, as you never know what questions could come up in the future!

About Cody Akers

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Cody Akers is a Project Analyst for the Land Development – East Division in Tampa, FL. Cody graduated from the University of Florida with a Bachelor’s Degree in Civil Engineering in 2016. He enjoys working on a variety of commercial sites out of our Florida office, helping guide all projects through the due-diligence and permitting/design phases.