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Thread: Why do developers have to be difficult?

  1. #1
    Cyburbian SW MI Planner's avatar
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    Why do developers have to be difficult?

    GRRRR......

    Pain in my rear is what they are. The same developers who did the Home Depot submit a site plan for 11 apartment buildings and 37 single family residential. I reviewed and and sent them a memo with a huge list of items that need to be amended, and overall concerns about the project. Revised plan isn't much better.

    - The layout is not creative - just rectangles and squares slapped down on a piece of paper.
    - They plan on using the Home Depot retention basin for this development as well. It already looks like a ugly hole in the ground.
    - They plan on grading the entire site, and although Coldwater is pretty flat, this is actually one of the only *rolling hills* area in the City. They said that the grading shown is absolutely necessary. BALONEY!
    - There is 5 pages - one has the entire site plan - proposed and existing elevations, utilties, roads, etc. I can't hardly read the darn thing. I am sitting here coloring - which is actually kind of fun!!

    It drives me crazy that some people think we are this little podunk town that has no clue what we are doing,and that they can try to sneak anything in. Plus, not to play the *young female* card, but don't treat me like I am stupid. You wouldn't believe the crap they try to pull with me but not our 65 year old male engineer.

    Good thing that we have our zoning ordinance and master plan that actually backs up our concerns. It's not like I am pulling these things out of my butt to make things difficult.

    Anywho, thanks for letting me rant!!

  2. #2
    Cyburbian Jeff's avatar
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    A developer and the engineer who does the plan are not the same thing. Most engineers are in the business of getting an approval and not providing buildable plans.

    What are your issues with the grading? Finally some stuff I like to talk about

    All residential lots require grading, and unless there are huge areas of open space, it may seem like alot, but it is better than flooded basements.

    As far as the detention basin goes, why be pissed about it. If it can handle the additional volume, why not use it instead of putting in another one??

  3. #3
    There is only one reason that Developers do these things....money. The more creative and aesthetically pleasing projects cost more than just grading everything and putting some buildings up.
    "I'm a white male, age 18 to 49. Everyone listens to me, no matter how dumb my suggestions are."

    - Homer Simpson

  4. #4
    Cyburbian Jeff's avatar
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    Originally posted by jtfortin
    There is only one reason that Developers do these things....money. The more creative and aesthetically pleasing projects cost more than just grading everything and putting some buildings up.
    Not true at all...as anyone who has received one of my "spreadsheets" of what things cost can verify, every inch of dirt that is stripped, replated, filled, or moved costs big bucks.

    Do you have an earthwork analysis for the job?? That could possibly shed light on excess grading. If the guy is short on dirt he's going to cut up whatever he can to make up for it.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian SW MI Planner's avatar
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    A developer and the engineer who does the plan are not the same thing. Most engineers are in the business of getting an approval and not providing buildable plans.
    I know, but the engineer does what the developer wants. Their side yard setbacks were wrong, so I told the engineer it needed to be fixed. His response "I'll have to talk to the client to see if that's ok". Umm...ok, it's wrong so it needs to be fixed either way.

    What are your issues with the grading? Finally some stuff I like to talk about

    All residential lots require grading, and unless there are huge areas of open space, it may seem like alot, but it is better than flooded basements.

    As far as the detention basin goes, why be pissed about it. If it can handle the additional volume, why not use it instead of putting in another one??
    I have a problem with the slash and burn concept when it comes to grading. Plus the way they are grading the one corner of the site, runoff goes straight to the neighboring properties.
    There is only one reason that Developers do these things....money. The more creative and aesthetically pleasing projects cost more than just grading everything and putting some buildings up.
    That is so true - I feel like the majority of developers I have encountered want everything they can get, but won't budge on anything and it results in a crappy project.

  6. #6
    Cyburbian Emeritus Chet's avatar
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    A Conumdrum

    It really depends on the developer IMHO. Very few are benevolent, but when you fins one of those, latch on to em and feed them projects!

    I've been on both sides of the table, and I can tell you that planners and city engineers have an outright distrust of developers in general, which diminishes on an individual / personal basis after a few "successful" projects.

    At the time I was privater sector developer, I can certainly tell you that my President and my CFO were purely driven by profit and had NO concept of site balance and NO desire for proper planning if it cost even a $1000 more. (That's why I'm back on this side of the table now - I couldn't do their biddings in good conscious). The result was a bad rapport with their communities, despite my efforts to mediate between corporate goals and community vision.

  7. #7
    Cyburbian SW MI Planner's avatar
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    Oops, didn't mean to post that yet....

    Why is it so hard to be creative though? Instead of a 6 acre rectangular hole in the earth for a retention basin, why couldn't it be something attractive, kind of curvy, with tree's and benches or something?

    Now I'm probably just being difficult.....Our engineer gives me a hard time because I always want things *pretty*. He says it takes more work to design a 'pretty' retention basin than a rectangular one.

    It's something I feel strongly about, but it's also listed in three different sections of the zoning ordinance, that natural topography should be maintained where possible, etc. etc. etc. Plus it's in the master plan.

    I'm more than willing to help out different projects, but have a big problem when people come in and are @$$es about things, asking what we can do for them, but don't give an inch, even when it is something we legitimately require.

  8. #8
    Cyburbian Jeff's avatar
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    Rectangles over curvy things because the curvy things are impossible for a survey crew to stake out properly. End result is a detention basin which does not work as it was designed, resulting in property damage, potential loss of life, etc.

    Natural topography must be preserved....is the natural topo at least 2% ?? Believe me, any developer would love to just pad a site and plop a house on it and be done, without having to grade out the lot. But you have to see if the natural topography will cause the basements to get flooded. It's alot cheaper to build for worst case in the beginning than to have to come back and fix something.

    As for the corner....I'd double check to make sure there isn't a swale there, maybe a yard inlet that wasn't labled on the plan, etc. Only a bozo would design something so his water goes offsite, unless this already a naturally occurring drainage pattern, and the adjacent development was designed to handle it.

  9. #9
    Cyburbian Habanero's avatar
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    Originally posted by Mike DeVuono
    Rectangles over curvy things because the curvy things are impossible for a survey crew to stake out properly. End result is a detention basin which does not work as it was designed, resulting in property damage, potential loss of life, etc.
    I don't understand that. We state this as a requirement in our Residentail Development Standards:

    5. Provide irregular shaped retention areas through the subdivision as a greenbelt, rather than a single rectangular basin, with maximum 4:1 side slopes. Retention areas must be screened from street view with the use of berming. These retention areas must appear natural and pleasing.

    6. Design and improve retention areas to be useable and accessible, i.e., not inundated by 10-year storm volumes for certain recreational purposes, such as, basketball, volleyball, or tot lots, etc., as well as for specific site and architectural amenities such as ramadas, benches, par courses, etc.

    And none of the developers complain about it, or if they complain it's a "sorry, those are the rules".
    When Jesus said "love your enemies", he probably didn't mean kill them.

  10. #10
    Cyburbian Jeff's avatar
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    There's a difference between irregular shaped to avoid a rectangle, than curvy things

    Based on your ordinance I'd put in a triangle and meet your requirements, plus make it easy to stake out.

    When I hear curvy things I think of the basins designed to look like kidneys. They're impossible to stake out, and are never built right. Thats why I prefer as few "curves" as possible.

    Why the 4:1 slopes?? You're using alot more land for your basins than necessary.

    Also, you should probably check with an attorney about your ordinance before you get burned. How is a "retention" basin usable for anything other than swimming? "Retention basins" retain water. "Detention" basins hold it then gradually release it.

    I think your opening yourself up for problems by trying to design them to be playgrounds, just my opinion though.

  11. #11
    Cyburbian Plus PlannerGirl's avatar
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    hugs

    yha i hvae worked with the "lovely" HD folks and was ready to scream by the time i left my last job. they DID NOT GET IT. they too wanted to do the slash and burn thing, never mind the wetlands, never mind the openspace regs, etc etc. I made the same comments over and over again-thank god for an online tracking system when someone would call and bitch that the plan was taking too long i could show them it was the eng/developers fault.

    long story short get ready for the real kicker, once the plans were FINALY approved and const started they proceeded to do what they wanted anyway in violation of the plans-they had to be watched like hawks.

    and Mike as much as id like you the majority of plans i have reviewed in my life the grading plans DID put water off on other properties that had not been before. i have become a major bitch on this one-your not gonna flood grannys house on my watch.

    shrugs
    "They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety." Ben Franklin

    Remember this motto to live by: "Life should NOT be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, chocolate in one hand, martini in the other, body thoroughly used up, totally worn out and screaming 'WOO- HOO what a ride!'"

  12. #12
    Cyburbian Jeff's avatar
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    In addition to writing review letters, when you see bad/unethical/dangerous etc engineering, call your state licensing board and report the engineer.

    I'm through trying to stick up for other guys too (which wasn't what I was trying to do, just trying to help out, I've seen many a planner look dumb when questioning an engineer on engineering design). All of my plans drain to an inlet, detention basin, whatever. I tie into an existing contour as soon as possible to save "natural topo" (these lots sell for more money BTW). But, the difference like I said in my first post is, I design construction plans, alot of other guys design approval plans. I have the pleasure of working with only one developer, all the way through the construction of the houses, while most guys are long gone as soon as final approval is obtained. And the "build whatever they want" you experience is really "field adjustments" because the plans aren't buildable.

  13. #13
    Gunfighter Mastiff's avatar
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    Originally posted by Mike DeVuono
    I'm through trying to stick up for other guys too (which wasn't what I was trying to do, just trying to help out, I've seen many a planner look dumb when questioning an engineer on engineering design).
    I've also seen them use "engineer-speak" to try and rumble over planning boards and regulations... Not all, but some. I'm lucky, since I've spent many years working for them.

    One thing you have to remember... they work for a client, and they are paid to engineer plans as directed by the client. It's hard to blame them for trying to make the most cost effective project if that is what the client wants. It's nice once in awhile to get the developer who wants a real quality project, and you can sit with him and the engineer to create something nice. At my last job, several of the developers would come in to ask my opinion on the best avenue for this or that...

    Originally posted by Mike DeVuono
    And the "build whatever they want" you experience is really "field adjustments" because the plans aren't buildable.
    I have to call on this one, Mike. If an engineer draws unbuildable plans, they need to be fired. If the regulation created by a city creates such a hardship that someone would draw the "unbuildable", why not ask for a variance? Again, not so much here, but at my last job, I recommended it much of the time! Especially if it means a better project...

    "Why not move your buildings closer together, into the front setback, cut the parking 15%, and save the nicest hill in town? I'd bet the people purchasing the homes would like that tree covered hill..."

    "You can do that?"

    "No... But I'd bet we can get a variance from the Planning Commission."
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  14. #14
    Cyburbian Jeff's avatar
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    Originally posted by Mastiff



    I have to call on this one, Mike. If an engineer draws unbuildable plans, they need to be fired. If the regulation created by a city creates such a hardship that someone would draw the "unbuildable", why not ask for a variance? Again, not so much here, but at my last job, I recommended it much of the time! Especially if it means a better project...

    One day when you are bored compare Final Plans with As-built plans. Can be quite amusing sometimes.

  15. #15
    Forums Administrator & Gallery Moderator NHPlanner's avatar
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    Originally posted by Mike DeVuono


    One day when you are bored compare Final Plans with As-built plans. Can be quite amusing sometimes.
    Here they vary very little. Our Planning Board is insistent upon the plans they approve being construction plans. Developers and engineers don't particularly like this, since our engineering reviews are very detailed and it tends to lengthen the PB process a bit....but the end results are good, as they don't have to spend a lot after the plans are approved on new ones.
    "Growth is inevitable and desirable, but destruction of community character is not. The question is not whether your part of the world is going to change. The question is how." -- Edward T. McMahon, The Conservation Fund

  16. #16
    Cyburbian SW MI Planner's avatar
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    One day when you are bored compare Final Plans with As-built plans. Can be quite amusing sometimes.
    I totally agree with you Mike - but I think that's a bunch of BS. Maybe I am being naive, but in my opinion the plans they submit and get approved should be the same as the as-built. If their not, the municipality needs to do something about it. We don't have a problem with that here, because we are pretty thorough.

    Our Planning Board is insistent upon the plans they approve being construction plans. Developers and engineers don't particularly like this.....
    Too bad, so sad for them. I just don't understand why they (whoever *they* is) feel they can do this - submit a plan to PC without even having the intention of using it as the construction plans. I guess it ends up being the municipalities responsibility to follow through, but it seems like it would not make for bad blood in the future.

    Same as my situation I talked about in the beginning of the thread - these people tried to basically screw us in the first project, now they are here again. While before, I tried tried to work with them, now I have absolutely no tolerance for their crap.

  17. #17
    Cyburbian Habanero's avatar
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    Originally posted by Mike DeVuono
    There's a difference between irregular shaped to avoid a rectangle, than curvy things

    Based on your ordinance I'd put in a triangle and meet your requirements, plus make it easy to stake out.

    When I hear curvy things I think of the basins designed to look like kidneys. They're impossible to stake out, and are never built right. Thats why I prefer as few "curves" as possible.
    Yes, be a triangle isn't natural and pleasing. Typically our retention areas meander through the subdivision.

    Why the 4:1 slopes?? You're using alot more land for your basins than necessary.

    Also, you should probably check with an attorney about your ordinance before you get burned. How is a "retention" basin usable for anything other than swimming? "Retention basins" retain water. "Detention" basins hold it then gradually release it.

    I think your opening yourself up for problems by trying to design them to be playgrounds, just my opinion though.
    It's terminology really, what we consider a retention basin is what you are calling a detention basin, and although we've been called on it before, our attorney backs us up on it because of how we define it in the code.

    We have the 4:1 slopes because somewhere along the lines building stormwater drainage and development in the city didn't happen at the same pace- basically, unless you are in the middle of the city there is no drainage system for you to connect to and you must retain it on site. (bummer, no?)
    When Jesus said "love your enemies", he probably didn't mean kill them.

  18. #18
    Cyburbian Jeff's avatar
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    Originally posted by TexasPlanner




    We have the 4:1 slopes because somewhere along the lines building stormwater drainage and development in the city didn't happen at the same pace- basically, unless you are in the middle of the city there is no drainage system for you to connect to and you must retain it on site. (bummer, no?)
    Yeah but if you do 3:1 or 2:1 (which are pretty much the norm) you can get the same volume, without eating up as much land in detention.

  19. #19
    Cyburbian Habanero's avatar
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    Originally posted by Mike DeVuono


    Yeah but if you do 3:1 or 2:1 (which are pretty much the norm) you can get the same volume, without eating up as much land in detention.
    Consensus seems to be that 4:1 is easier to maintain so that's where that requirement came from. Other cities use 3:1 and 2:1, but you end up seeing trash at the bottom of the basin.
    When Jesus said "love your enemies", he probably didn't mean kill them.

  20. #20
    Gunfighter Mastiff's avatar
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    Originally posted by Mike DeVuono


    One day when you are bored compare Final Plans with As-built plans. Can be quite amusing sometimes.
    On sewer plans... sure. On water plans... sure. Even on street plans, no big deal. In most cities, the city has an inspector who can okay the changes, and not be breaking the code.

    But if you have a site plan, and you move buildings around, you can get in some hot water... especially if the change makes the plan no longer meet code. I've seen some UGLY fights at PC when a developer/engineer comes in for "after-the-fact" variances.
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