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Unit 19: Key Points

These are the most important points for you to remember in this unit.

City Planning

  • Larger cities in the U.S. were generally well-planned until the 1800’s.
  • In the late 1800s, industrial leaders felt that government should stand aside and let business decide how cities should grow.
  • Laissez-Faire (French for “let alone”) is a libertarian view; the government philosophy of non‑interference in private business affairs.
  • New York continued to apply zoning laws which were tested and upheld by the Supreme Court.
  • City planners work to
    • save tax money by preventing sprawl,
    • provide adequate services such as sewer, water, schools, and utilities,
    • provide for road rights-of-way and street setbacks,
    • protect against costly drainage, flooding or environmental problems,
    • reduce problems in selecting sites for landfills, sewage treatment plants, and prisons.
  • Local Planning Agency
    • Planning commission members are appointed by the city and county commissions.
    • The commission members are not elected, and do not receive compensation.
    • The planning commission has final authority for subdivision plat approval, site plan approval, and sign control.
    • Members of the planning commission are “lay” persons, supported by a paid staff of professional planners and other employees.

Florida’s Comprehensive Plan

  • The local comprehensive plan is a community’s legally binding “blueprint” for how it will develop.
    • The plan should be flexible to meet changing needs.
    • The overall goal of the plan is to discourage urban sprawl.
  • The state concurrency provision requires that adequate sanitary sewers, drinking water, and waste treatment facilities be in place before the start of new construction. Local governments may extend the concurrency requirements to include schools and roads.

Zoning, land use restrictions and building codes

  • Zoning ordinances allow cities and counties, using their police powers, to promote orderly growth and to prevent the use of one parcel of land to adversely affect the value of an adjoining parcel.
    • Residential zoning regulates dwelling units, including lot size and density, limiting the number of housing units that can be built per acre.
    • Commercial zoning controls the intensity of use in an area.
  • The Florida Building Code establishes statewide standards for a building’s design, construction, use and occupancy.
  • The Florida Energy Code sets minimum requirements for energy efficiency (R-Value) in buildings. The R-Value is the effectiveness of insulation and its resistance to heat flow. Higher is better.
  • Building codes are enforced by local governments by requiring a building permit, building inspection, and a certificate of occupancy.
    • Before issuing a building permit, a code official reviews the architectural drawings and engineering studies. Special attention is given to energy-efficiency standards and wind load requirements for roofs, door, and windows.
    • At each prescribed stage of construction, the contractor must call for a building inspection.
    • When construction has been completed, the building inspector must certify that the building has met code requirements. Before anyone can occupy the building, the building inspection department must issue a certificate of occupancy.

Appeals and Exceptions

  • A Zoning Board of Adjustment handles appeals and requests for relief from the literal enforcement of zoning laws.
    • A variance is a relaxation of the strict terms of the zoning code or ordinance because of practical difficulties or hardships.
    • A special exception is usually initiated by government which would allow a certain use in one area that is not specifically zoned for the area. A public hearing is held before the exception is granted.
    • A non-conforming use (grandfathering) often occurs when zoning in a neighborhood is changed without the owner desiring the change. The use may be continued for a reasonable time, and restricts renovation or enlargement.
  • A planned unit development is a special land use that allows a mix of land uses along with a high density of residential units.
  • Zoning laws often permit mixed land uses within a single development. Many planned communities use mixed land uses to have clusters of homes, townhouses, and condominiums surrounding a town center with stores and entertainment. 

Calculating the number of lots available for development

  • This is a basic calculation for developers to estimate how many building sites can be sold in a subdivision. In order to make this calculation, assume the developer shows the following data:
    • Total number of acres in the parcel.
    • The percentage of land that is set aside for streets, parks, and other facilities.
    • The minimum number of square feet in a site.
      • Calculate number of total square feet based on the number of acres x 43,560 sq. ft. per acre.
      • Calculate the number of square feet taken by roads and parks by multiplying the total square footage by the percentage set aside for roads.
      • Subtract the road and park square footage from the total.
      • Calculate the number of sites by dividing square feet available for sites by the minimum lot square footage.

Flood zones

  • National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) insures individuals and businesses from losses caused by flooding. It encourages communities to adopt and enforce floodplain management regulations.
  • The NFIP offers flood insurance to property owners if their community participates in the NFIP.
  • Owners can purchase flood insurance only through insurance agents participating in the NFIP.
  • FEMA maps contain two categories to identify the poten­tial for flooding in an area: high-risk zones and low-risk zones.
  • High-risk zones—lenders require borrowers to buy flood insurance if the collateral property is in one of these zones.
    • “V” zone stands for velocity zone. A V zone is most likely to flood, and the premiums are higher.
    • “A” zone means that there is a 1% chance the property will flood within a given year or once every 100 years.
  • Low-risk zones—lenders of properties in lower risk areas may require borrowers to purchase floodinsurance if the property has flooded in the past.
  • “X” zones are not likely to flood.

Indoor and outdoor environmental hazards

  • Well water should be tested to ensure that it is safe for human consumption.
  • Public water quality—the Safe Drinking Water Act regulates the public water supply.
  • Septic tanks—buyers should order a septic tank inspection before purchasing a home.
  • Asbestos is a group of six naturally occurring fibrous minerals composed of thin, needle-like fibers.
    • Asbestos products also include vinyl asbestos tiles, asbestos cement, asbestos roofing felt, asbestos adhesives, sealants and coatings.
    • Exposure to asbestos causes cancer, including mesothelioma and asbestosis.
      • Friable asbestos is quite dangerous because it is easy to break or crumble, and is found on old asbestos pipe insulation and talcum powder.
      • Nonfriable asbestos is found in vinyl tiles and asbestos siding, and is not a hazard if left undisturbed.
  • Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas that can cause lung cancer.
    • Radon enters a building from the ground through openings like plumbing pipes and cracks in the slab.
    • Testing is the only way to know level of exposure.
    • A buyer should fix the home if the radon level is higher than 4 picocuries per liter of air.
    • Florida law mandates that a radon disclosure be given to buyers. The disclosure informs the buyers about the gas and its effects, but does not require a test.
  • Lead is a highly toxic metal that may cause a range of health problems, especially in young children.
    • The Residential Lead-Based Paint Hazard Disclosure Act requires that sellers and real estate licensees disclose known information about lead hazards in houses and apartments that were built before 1978.
  • Molds are common in buildings and homes causing many health problems.
    • Mold growing in homes and buildings indicates that there is a problem with water or moisture.
    • The only way to deal with mold in carpet, insulation, ceiling tiles, drywall, or wallboard is by removal and replacement.
  • Wood-Destroying Organisms—arthropod or plant life which damages and can reinfest seasoned wood in a structure. Some examples include termites, carpenter ants, powder-post beetles, old house borers, and wood-decaying fungi (dry rot).
    • Most of the contracts for real estate transactions in Florida are contingent on a clear WDO (wood-destroying organism) inspection report.