I’ve been working at D.L. Howell for a little over six months now. I came from a firm where most of the projects I worked on were in Philadelphia, where I only had one set of ordinances I had to look through when designing land development projects. Since I have been here, I have worked on projects in Chester County, Berks County, Delaware County, Bucks County, and even New Castle County, DE. So many municipalities, so many ordinances, so many different rules! It was quite a shock when I started working outside the city, but I have gotten the hang of it.
I’ve recently been working on projects for The Westover Companies. They own several older apartment complexes and have been performing upgrades to them such as increasing parking and constructing rental offices and fitness centers for each complex. Most of the rental offices/fitness centers are under 2,000 square feet. For most of the projects, the footprints of the building are very similar, if not identical. Typically, the disturbance for these projects is less than 10,000 square feet. No matter how similar these projects are to each other, every municipality and county will see it differently. In one township, they required a waiver of land development submission, in another, they just required a grading permit, and in others, we had to submit a full land development submission. I have designed infiltration systems for a few of these projects, while others just required peak flow rate control. Some counties require submission to the conservation district, and others don’t. Every new project is a surprise.
One of the projects I’m working on for The Westover Companies, Newport Village Apartments, is a proposed rental office and fitness center with a small sidewalk and stormwater facility. The design was relatively simple, and we are even removing existing impervious as part of the project, something townships are always happy to see. But it turns out; we need a variance for an indoor recreation area. This adds another level of applications, meetings, and plan sets to go through.
What might seem like a simple project, dropping in a 2,000 square foot building, can get pretty complex depending on the municipality and county. Here at D.L. Howell we try to make things simpler by reading the ordinances, identifying potential issues, and talking through the project with the township/county officials. Although working on these projects can get complicated, it certainly never gets boring!