Land Planning

Why Cluster Lots In A Site Plan?

When the site plan design begins, the lot sizes and dimensions are driven by the zoning standards that are designated for your property.  As example, the zoning may dictate that every lot must be a minimum of 10,000 square feet and have a minimum lot width of 80 feet.  As well, the zoning code usually states the maximum density for the property, such as maybe 3.3 lots per gross acre.  All these zoning standards are taken into account by your land planner or civil engineer when creating the site plan.

Some cities, however, will allow a site plan to cluster the same number of lots into a smaller area, which usually results in smaller lots.  Using the 10,000 sf lots and 3.3 per acre density as the example, let’s assume that 66 lots can be site planned on a 20-acre property. We will assume that the land planner can achieve the minimum 10,000 sf lot area and the minimum 80-foot lot width.  The zoning code, though, provides the option to cluster 5,000 sf lots so long as you do not exceed 66 lots on the property.  If you cannot achieve more than 66 lots, what is the value in having smaller lots?

One primary reason can be the grading and site development costs.  A portion of the property may be too steep or have considerable rock, which would make the grading costs excessive.  Or, a portion of the property may be too low to allow for gravity sewer to an existing sewer main, which could mean excessive costs in terms of dirt import or a sewer lift station.  Thus, clustering lots on one portion of the property may be economically beneficial even if your end product is smaller lots.

The option to cluster lots should be thoroughly analyzed during the site design process, looking at the cost and market considerations.  It may take a few iterations in the site plan designs to determine whether clustering can prove to be financially worthwhile. And, keep in mind that your land planner needs to understand the city’s rules as they relate to clustering, as they can vary from one jurisdiction to another.

Please share your comments and questions with us below.

John Kaye has over 30 years experience within the land development and homebuilding industries, having held senior management positions with The Irvine Company, Koll Real Estate Group, and Brookfield Homes. As a developer, John has overseen the land acquisition, entitlements, and development of master planned communities, residential tracts, urban infill sites, and land assemblages. His experience and skill sets include land acquisition, land brokerage, project management, market analysis, finance, and strategic planning.

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