FAQ(s)… Answered!

June 25, 2021
5 min read
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In case you all are a bit tired of seeing a second, third or fourth “Project Update” newsletter, I thought I’d go in a different direction this week by listing some “Frequently Asked Questions”. Who knows – if I do a good job here, this could land on our website! Apologies in advance for the lack of cool graphics…

With that said, read on!

Q: I want to put an addition on my house, do I need a permit from my Township?

A: Yes, and you may need two!  

At a minimum, when you are proposing improvements that involve changes to a structure (in this case, your house), your Municipality will require you to obtain a Building Permit. The submission of a complete Building Permit application package and subsequent review by the Municipality ensures that what is being constructed meets all required building codes applicable to the building components (structural, electrical, plumbing, etc, etc.) that constitute the construction. This ensures that what is being built meets certain standards established for safety reasons. The building permit is typically prepared by your builder or architect and we often say for simplicity the Building Permit is applicable to the “BUILDNG WALL IN”

You may also need a Land Disturbance PermitMunicipalities may have slightly different names for this – Earth Disturbance Permit, Grading Permit, Erosion Control Permit, however, the underlying purpose of these permits is the same and that is to regulate how the project “Site” is modified during construction. The submission of a Land Disturbance Plan, or what we call a “Grading, Erosion Control and Stormwater Management Plan”, and subsequent review by the Municipality ensures that when land is disturbed as part of a project, it does not negatively impact surrounding property owners or the environment. A Land Disturbance Permit is typically required if a project is going to disturb greater than 500 square feet of land area but don’t quote me on that number; each Municipality has its own threshold. The Land Disturbance Permit is typically prepared by your civil engineer and we often say for simplicity the Land Disturbance Permit is applicable to the “BUILDING WALL OUT”. 

Q: Do I need stormwater management design as part of my project?

A: Great question and one that is cause for much confusion!  

Determining whether your project will require stormwater management is a two-step process.  

     Step 1 – Determine how much new impervious coverage you plan to install as part of your project

     Step 2 – Determine how much land disturbance you plan to incur as part of your project

With Steps 1 and 2 complete, you are now able to determine if you need stormwater management. Now again, each Municipality has their own thresholds, but I am going to provide some rule of thumb numbers that will get you close. Always consult with your civil engineer so they can confirm what the coverage and disturbance thresholds are in your Municipality.

In general, projects that propose more than 1,000 square feet of new impervious area OR more than 4,000 square feet of land disturbance will require a stormwater management design to be submitted for review and approval by the Municipality.

The above act independently of one another – remember the IF THEN, OR statement in basic programming? So,

IF your project proposes more than 1,000 sf of new impervious, THEN you need stormwater management design OR..

IF your project proposes more than 4,000 sf of land disturbance, THEN you need stormwater management design

I know there is a programmer out there right now shaking his head… Ok, my computer code may be a little rusty but you get the idea – it is an OR not an AND!

Most Municipalities have different levels of stormwater management designs the can be implemented depending on the amount of proposed impervious or land disturbance and even include some nifty charts in their ordinances to help explain, however, we won’t be getting into that here – another good reason to consult your civil engineer.

Q: Does my project require Land Development Plan approval?

A: A little background for starters – when referring to a Land Development Plan or Land Development Approval, we are referring to a process by which an applicant is seeking Municipal approval to make “substantial” improvements to a property or properties. With those substantial improvements comes the need for compliance with a myriad of regulatory requirements, all of which are contained in the Municipal land use codes. We won’t go into the requirements here but just know that there are many and can take months or years to comply with. Today’s discussion revolves around whether or not your project is “Substantial” enough to qualify as a Land Development or to require a Land Development Approval.  

Well, here it is… The routine definition of Land Development contained in most Municipal land use codes:  


Any of the following activities:

A.   The improvement of one lot or two or more contiguous lots, tracts or parcels of land for any purpose involving:

  1. A group of two or more residential or nonresidential buildings, whether proposed initially or cumulatively, or a single nonresidential building on a lot or lots, regardless of the number of occupants or tenure;
  2. The division or allocation of land or space, whether initially or cumulatively, between or among two or more existing or prospective occupants by means of or for the purpose of streets, common areas, leaseholds, condominiums, building groups or other features; or
  3. The addition of any accessory building, including farm buildings, on a lot or lots subordinate to an existing principal building.

B.   A subdivision of land.

Ok, because I knew you were going to ask allow me to try and help…

  • Living room addition – NOT Land Development
  • 2 lot subdivision – Land Development
  • Pool Install – NOT Land Development
  • New McDonalds – Land Development
  • Grading to fix drainage issue in your yard – NOT Land Development
  • New 600 unit age-restricted subdivision – Land Development
  • New dwelling on an existing lot of record – NOT Land Development
  • Driveway expansion – NOT Land Development
  • New Walmart – Land Development
  • Small expansion to an existing commercial building - …….. Call me to discuss!!

FAQ(s) To be Continued…. on my next newsletter, which should be in about a year… 🙂

Lastly, we here at DLH are always on the lookout for new talent. If you are in the market, have a few years of site engineering under your belt and are looking for a challenging yet rewarding career with competitive salary and awesome perks, give me a call and let’s chat!  



West Chester

1250 Wrights Lane
West Chester, PA 19380

Phone: 610-918-9002
Fax: 610-918-9003


5020 Ritter Road #203 Mechanicsburg, PA 17055

A Howell Company

53 Old Solomons Island Rd. Suite I
Annapolis, MD 21401

Phone: 410-266-1160

A Howell Company

1250 Wrights Lane
West Chester, PA 19380

Phone: 610-692-7007

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