Asking the right questions
Learn as much as you can about the development by asking important questions!
Out of all the meetings in the zoning process, the Pre-Submittal meeting will give you the most one-on-one time with the developer. It’s important to ask as many meaningful questions as you can. If you’re new to the process, unsure of the site plan or not familiar with the area, you may not know what questions you should ask. To help, I’ve compiled a list of common questions that should get you started. Use these questions as a basic guide so you can cover as many topics as possible. Take detailed notes and notate the questions the developer doesn’t have answers to. If you think of something that may be relevant to the property or how it impacts your neighborhood, just ask! Remember, every neighborhood and development is different and requires its own set of zoning guidelines and questioning.
Creating a site plan involves several trained professions such as engineers, hydrologists, arborists and surveyors. These specialized fields each require a particular set of skills and knowledge. We shouldn’t expect a developer to be an expert in every topic. If the applicant doesn’t have an answer to your important drainage question, let them contact their hydrologist and get back to you. It’s better to wait and get an accurate, thorough answer rather than having them take an uninformed guess at the meeting. Be sure to get their contact information after the meeting and follow up with them in a day or two with your question(s).
Asking a variety of questions can serve two purposes during your Pre-Submittal meeting. The first is pretty obvious; you ask a question and you get an answer! The second purpose, however, is more of a test. Think of it almost like a job interview. If you find that the applicant is constantly struggling to find answers to your questions or doesn’t have physical evidence to support their proposal (such as detailed site plans or professional studies), then maybe they aren’t as well prepared as we would expect them to be. Maybe there’s a lot they need to consider before moving forward. This will give you a good gauge on how well they’ve thought their process through and identify red-flags as they arise. Your community can use this information to determine the steps you should take moving forward at the next meetings.