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Development Review


Development review is a regulatory process within planning that allows public entities to evaluate proposed development projects. For development review to function effectively, development standards along with a master plan must first be put into place. Development standards are the criteria by which proposed plans will be reviewed and effectively, judged.

A comprehensive development review process is one that is collaborative and coordinated across all relevant jurisdictions, including city, county, state and metropolitan planning agencies. Development review empowers planners to evaluate proposed development based on a number of criteria, including but not limited to:

  • Zoning
  • Traffic
  • Parking
  • Density
  • Environmental impacts
  • Impacts on public facilities, such as roads, schools, sewers and emergency services
  • General compatibility with neighboring uses

Other issues addressed in development review are:

  • Signage
  • Design
  • Historic preservation

Either embedded within the development review process or following it, may be a design review process. Design review typically addresses more detailed design issues, such as building style, materials, orientation, and facade. 

The development review process may begin in a number of ways. Close coordination with a public planner in the relevant jurisdiction is required for detailed steps in the process. The process should include filing of a proposed project, meetings with adjacent, confronting landowners and local residents; meetings with city staff; public meetings; and ultimately, a meeting with the planning board, during which the proposed development is evaluated in each of the relevant categories.

Development review is a formal process, during which a community has the opportunity to prevent development which is not in the interest of the public welfare and possibly to produce changes in proposed development that make it more appropriate for the community. Regardless of local economics, development review is an important planning tool.

Development review typically includes a number of approvals. It may include preliminary review, which is a city-staff-based decision about the general appropriateness of a proposed project; a site plan review, which will look at the general layout of the proposed development on the site; and a more detailed review of qualities such as bulk, density, far, etc.

Although development review is a necessary tool for all place types addressed in this web tool, it will likely play a larger role in areas where more regulatory standards apply.

Incentivize great streets with expedited development review. One way governmental agencies can encourage great streets in their community is to reward it with an expedited development review process. While this approach costs nothing for governmental agencies, it usually translates into savings for the private sector. 

Make the development review process comprehensive. Too often, the development review process fails to include elements that significantly contribute to great streets. Careful access management is essential to a great street, yet access permits are often granted outside of the development review process, when negotiations are complete.  All relevant departments within a local government should be involved in the development review process, including public works, transportation, urban design, pathways/recreation, forestry, in addition to planning staff.  If the roadway is owned by another agency, such as the county or state, its representative should also be included.